Mr. James Covington Parham, Jr., gracefully departed his earthly body on March 6, 2023 at age 92. Known to most everyone as “Poss,” he was born in Sumter, South Carolina on October 1, 1930 to the late Alice Witherspoon Wilson Parham and James C. Parham, Sr. Poss graduated from Edmonds High School (now Sumter High School) in 1948, where he was valedictorian, student body president, and lettered in baseball and football. In 1952 he graduated from Princeton University, where he was elected class president for three consecutive years, played football and baseball, won the Detwiler Prize, the thesis prize, and led a social revolution called the “100-percent-or-none” movement that demanded inclusivity in the university’s eating clubs and permanently changed the fabric of students’ cultural experience. Selected as a Rhodes Scholar, he received a BCL from Oxford University, Magdalen College in 1956 and graduated with an LLB from Yale Law School in 1957.
Poss became a fighter pilot, flying the F-104, F-102 and F-86 with the South Carolina Air National Guard, 157th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, and retained a close kinship with his fellow “Swamp Fox” pilots throughout his life. But his affinity for flying led him to meet the true love of his life, Margaret “Peggy” Kinley, as a young cadet in San Antonio, Texas. They married in 1958 and shared 64 years and five children together.
Following his clerkship for the Honorable Ashton Williams, United States District Court in Charleston, he joined Wyche, Burgess, Freeman & Parham in 1960, where he practiced law up until the very last years of his life. In 1964, he represented the Greenville County School District in desegregation litigation and was integral in ensuring the voluntary, expeditious and peaceful integration of over 55,000 students in only two weeks, an event so historic it was reported in the New York Times. He was known as a quintessential lawyer, mentor, and gentleman, leaving a lasting impression of kindness, humility, and generosity on all who knew him and inspiring countless young people to become lawyers, to become better lawyers, or to become better people.
His innumerable professional and civic contributions include service as President of the South Carolina Bar, the Greenville County Bar, Greenville Rotary Club, Greenville United Way, Greenville Symphony, and board member of many other community organizations. From 1977-1983, he served on the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, Fourth Circuit Member. For over twenty-five years, Mr. Parham served on the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee. In addition to serving on the Executive Committee of the Yale Law School Association, he served on the Princeton Board of Trustees from 1976-1980, the Executive Committee in 1980, and was Chairman of the Princeton Alumni Association from 1989-1991.
In 2002, Poss received the Tommy Thomason Award from the Greenville County Bar Association, In 2022, he received the DuRant Public Service Award from the South Carolina Bar Foundation for the culmination of a lifetime in the law marked by integrity, character, and active pursuits to ensure justice. An active member of Christ Episcopal Church, Mr. Parham served on the Vestry as well as various committees. Second only to his devotion to his family, perhaps his most lasting legacy was his unflinching faith in the ultimate goodness of humankind.
In addition to his wife Peggy, Poss is survived by five children: the Reverend James C. Parham, III (Christine), Arthur Bradley Parham, Tally Parham Casey (Matthew), Maggie Parham Murdock (Scott), and John Gregory Kinley Parham. Also surviving him are his 14 grandchildren: Chris Owens (James), Isabelle Davis, Harriotte Davis, Margaret Parham, Mary Tindall Parham, Arthur Bradley Parham, Jr., Jaxon Alexander Casey, Wyatt James Kosciusko, Mia Witherspoon Kosciusko, Breanna Shannon, Jacob Scott Murdock, Henry James Murdock, Abigail Toeko Murdock, and Kaya Logan Parham. He was predeceased by his brother, John Snowden Wilson Parham.
Following a Committal Service at 2:45 pm on Saturday, March 11, 2023 in Christ Churchyard, the Memorial Service will be at 3:30 pm at Christ Episcopal Church. The family will receive friends immediately following the service in the McCall Parlor at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to South Carolina Legal Services https://sclegal.org/donate-now/; Upstate Forever https://www.upstateforever.org/; Christ Church Episcopal https://www.ccgsc.org/; or a charity of your choice.
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