This fall saw the loss of several of the pillars of the Charleston community. Most recently, we received news of the passing of Judge Bernard Fielding.
Judge Fielding was the first African American probate judge in South Carolina. His family owns Fielding Home for Funerals, the largest and oldest black-owned funeral home business.
Born in Charleston in 1932, Fielding attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in SC before moving to Boston to study law. After graduating in 1955, Fielding returned home to a still-segregated South Carolina to practice law. It was there he began applying his skills and training to help advance the cause of civil rights. He worked underneath Judge Matthew Perry, who later became the first African American US federal judge in South Carolina, and went on to serve as associate counsel for the NAACP.
In 1990, Fielding ran for the soon-to-be-vacated position of probate judge in Charleston County. His victory was vigorously challenged by his opponent but ultimately upheld by the courts. Still, he started out receiving only 60% of his predecessor’s pay. After losing a bid for a second term for years later, Fielding resolved to stay in his home state, continuing to practice law while also helping to run his family’s funeral home.
Judge Fielding was a pillar in this community and this is a sad day for us all. We extend our sympathy to his wife, Conchita, and to his son, his daughter and his granddaughters.