The South Carolina Bar Foundation is proud to announce the Honorable William R. Byars Jr. as the 2014 DuRant Distinguished Public Service Award recipient for meritorious service to the law and community. This annual recognition is the most prestigious statewide award members of the South Carolina Bar can bestow on a fellow attorney. The award will be presented during the SC Bar Convention on January 23 in Columbia.
Byars’ extensive record of leadership in legal issues involving South Carolina children, families and communities is immense. Byars began his career with the law firm of Savage Royall Sheheen and Byars in Camden. Byars then presided over cases of abuse and neglect, as well as delinquency and divorce in Richland and Kershaw Counties as a Fifth Judicial Circuit Family Court Judge. From 1989 to 1999, he served as director of the Children’s Law Office at the University of South Carolina. In 2003, Byars was appointed by then Gov. Mark Sanford to serve as director of the SC Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). During his tenure, DJJ experienced a significant reduction in juvenile crime, long-term secure population and recidivism. Judge Byars also led the efforts to construct a new visitor center, providing a safe and clean place for families, church groups and mentors to visit incarcerated youth. Byars completed his distinguished professional career as the director of the SC Department of Corrections, retiring in January 2013.
Byars has led many legal related organizations. He served on the executive committee of the SC Families for Kids, as chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice and as president of the SC Conference of Family Court Judges. Byars also served as co-chair of the SC Truancy Task Force and the Blue Ribbon Task Force of the SC Fatherhood Policy Project Office. He was also on the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the US Department of Justice and the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council.
Byars’ decades of work in family court and juvenile justice have been heralded by many. He was honored with The Order of the Palmetto and was celebrated with the “Outstanding Leadership and Service in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect” award from the US Department of Health and Human Services. He also received the Afterschool Champion Award from the National Afterschool Alliance and the National Afterschool Association. Byars has received awards from the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys for “Extraordinary Commitment to the Welfare of Children” and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the SC Council on Adoptable Children. In 2004, he was honored with the “Governor and Mrs. Richard W. Riley Award for Excellence in Dropout Prevention” from The National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University.
For his military service during the Vietnam War, Byars received an Army Commendation Medal and a Bronze Star for “meritorious achievement.”
Colleagues wishing to celebrate Judge Byars’ award may do so by sending a tribute gift in his honor to PO Box 608, Columbia, SC 29202 or by making a gift online.