In 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard where he served six years during World War 11, and was on North Atlantic sea duty during the German submarine attacks.
He met his wife, Madeleine, in New York City and they were married a year later in West Palm Beach. After the war was over, he came back to Loris to live and worked as a plumber and electrician and then went into the L.P. gas business with O.D. Freeman. One day while talking with his neighbor, J.N. Marlowe, about how he had always wanted to study law, he made up his mind, then and there, that he would go back to school and get law degree. Of course, at this time it was no easy task to uproot his family and embark on a college career, especially since only 11 months before that he had moved into his own small house, lost a baby boy on January 10, 1948, and his first son, Jimmy, was only a year and a half old, and his wife was expecting another child in October of 1949. But after discussing his dream with his wife, Madeleine, they decided they would pursue his goal. After all, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." He enrolled at the University of South Carolina under the G.I. Bill. In spite of an overloaded schedule, he made the Dean's List and was on the University Debate Team. This Debate Team was in national competition and defeated West Point in the tournament. He then entered the University of South Carolina Law School where he again made a name for himself by being elected President of the Law Federation. He also was a member on the Law School Moot Debate Team, and was selected for the Wig and Robe Society which is the Law School Scholastic Society that honors the top five individuals of the Law School Senior Class. While in Law School, he worked as a page in the South Carolina Senate, and one day as he was polishing the brass railings in the Senate Chamber, he jokingly told the Clerk of the Senate, "Save that seat for me", indicating the Horry County seat. Holding down two jobs while going to school and raising three sons, the third being born just before graduation, he obtained his Law Degree and came back to Loris to set up his law practice in a room over the H. Clay Hughes store. In March of 1955 disaster struck when the Hughes Building caught on fire and everything was lost, all his file, records, law books, furniture and office equipment. Still undaunted, he prepared to start anew. He set up an office over the Town Hall.
In the same year about the month of June, he filed for the vacant seat in the South Carolina Senate for the County of Horry. He had five other opponents, but he made a landslide victory in a run off. He had very little money for his campaign, but he went from door to door meeting the voters and sometimes going to a home that he had wired and plumbed. Many had tried to dissuade him from running for the Senate saying that he was too young, unknown and too poor to compete with the other candidates who were wellknown and had money for their campaigns. This made him more determined to succeed and his young and fresh approach won over the hearts of the voters and his victory was all the sweeter because of the odds against him. Upon his successful election, he received a telegram from Lovick Thomas, Clerk of the Senate, congratulating him and reminding him that he "saved that seat for him".
He continued practicing law in Loris and when the Hughes Building was rebuilt, he moved into one of the offices on the second floor. In March 1959, John T. Holt entered the law practice, which then became Stevens and Holt, Attorneys, and John Holt remained with the firm until he was elected County judge in July 1973. Meanwhile the business of law and the business of the Senate kept Stevens very, very busy. In 1964, on the night of the first Stump Speaking at Galivants Ferry, his wife was taken to the Loris Hospital by his son, Jimmy, and the next morning a daughter was born. Although his wife did not want him to know she had gone to the hospital so that he could participate in the speakings, John Holt went to Galivants Ferry and told him. John filled in for James that night and informed the audience of the forthcoming blessed event.
He served for twenty-one years in the South Carolina Senate which is longer than any other Senator in the history of Horry County. He rose to become the fourth ranking member of the South Carolina Senate and during these years served on the powerful judiciary Committee, was Chairman of the Military and Veterans Affairs Committtee while also serving on the Board of Visitors at the Citadel. He was also Chairman of the Transportation and Highways Committee, the Rules Committee, the Tourism Committee, and the Insurance Study Committee. He also served on the Agriculture Committee, the Fish, Game and Forestry Committee and was also Chairman of the Rural Electrification Committee as well as the Interstate Cooperation Committee.
While doing some research into the history of the South Carolina Senate, he discovered there were three other Senators in his family tree. He is the great-great-great-great-great grandson of Daniel Horry, brother of Peter Horry, for whom the County was named. Daniel Horry was Senator from the Santee District. He is also the great-great-great grandson of James Beaty, who was Senator of Horry District; and the great-great grandson of Joel Barcey Skipper, Senator of Horry District, who served for nine years before the War between the States and for two years after the war.
Some of the accomplishments during his service in the Senate have added much to the progress and growth of Horry County. South Carolina was supposed to have only 13 Technical Education Centers under the initial program. Stevens, the Delegation and some dedicated citizens made numerous trips to the meetings of the South Carolina Technical Education Commission. Their tenacity and perseverance culminated in successfully obtaining a Technical Education Center for Horry County. This also proved to be invaluable for attracting industry which followed to Horry County.
He also initiated a Bill to make Coastal Carolina College of the University of South Carolina a 4-year college instead of a 2-year college. Representative Charles E. Hodges played an important part in this endeavor by using his influence in the House of Representatives in having the Bill passed.
During his tenure he had more roads paved than any other office holder and received additional farm to market funds by virture of his position as Chairman of the Highway and Transportation Committee. During his tenure a contract was let for the 4-laning of U.S. Highway 501 through Horry County. Senator Stevens worked hard for this project as well as the partial 4-laning of South Carolina Highway 9, both of which flowed from the beach area through Horry County to other parts of the State. His feeling is that the road program has given more progress and a higher standard of living to Horry County. Due primarily to his efforts along with other interested citizens, Horry County and more especially the Loris community received substantial industrialization, thereby creating numerous jobs. During his years of service as Senator Horry County had the highest per capita income of any county in South Carolina.
On a minor note, but one which demonstrates compassion, he was instrumental in having the chain gang stripes removed from the clothing of the Horry County prison inmates, and he also initiated a program of religious services for the inmates.
In 1973 his son Jimmy graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School and came into the firm along with a classmate, Jack Thomas. In 1976, after leaving the Senate, he devoted his full time to his Loris law practice and in one year the business of the firm more than quadrupled.
On January 1, 1986, Stevens retired from active practice but remains in the law firm as "Of Counsel". Now in his retirement years, he hopes to devote time to such things as fishing, traveling and spending time with his family.
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