Founding Fathers – Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Heyward, Jr., July 28, 1746 – March 6, 1809
Heyward was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and of the Articles of Confederation as a representative of South Carolina.
He was born in St. Luke’s Parish, South Carolina and educated at home, then traveled to England to study law where he was a member of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Heyward returned to South Carolina in 1778 to serve as a judge. In command of a militia force, he was taken prisoner by the British during the siege of Charleston. He continued to serve as a judge after the war, retiring from the bench in 1798.
He was married twice, to Miss Matthews and Miss Savage, and had children with both. In addition, he was said to have had a mulatto daughter by an African-American woman, likely a slave, in which case his daughter was born into slavery.
His mulatto daughter and a wealthy white man had a relationship and a child, but the man’s family disapproved and made him give up his mixed-race son for adoption. The boy, Heyward’s grandson, was mostly European in ancestry and adopted by a free black couple, Richard and Mary Miller; he was named Thomas E. Miller. Although he could have passed for white if he had moved away, Miller chose to stay in the South and identify as black. He worked as an attorney, state legislator, and US Congressman, working for the rights of freedmen after the American Civil War. He had on his gravestone: “Not having loved the white less, but having felt the Negro needed me more”, related to his work for civil rights and his decision to identify as black.
Another descendant of Heyward was DuBose Heyward (1885-1940), a poet, novelist and playwright who influenced the Southern Renaissance and is most well known for the 1925 novel and 1927 play Porgy, and the libretto to the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin and based on the play.
A great-nephew was Confederate General James Heyward Trapier.
Thomas Heyward, Jr. was a Delegate from South Carolina; born in St. Luke’s Parish, S.C., July 28, 1746; pursued academic studies; studied law, Middle Temple, London, England; lawyer, private practice; farmer; member of the commons house of assembly of South Carolina in 1772. Also he was a delegate to the provincial convention, 1774; member of the council of safety, 1775-1776; member of the South Carolina, general assembly, 1776-1778; and Member of the Continental Congress, 1776-1778.
He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; member of the South Carolina state constitutional committee, 1776; served in the South Carolina state house of representatives, 1778-1780 and 1782-1790; South Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War; and a British prisoner of war during the Revolutionary War.
He became a judge of the circuit court, 1785-1789; and, member of the South Carolina state constitutional convention in 1790.
Heyward died on April 17, 1809 in St. Luke’s Parish, S.C and is buried in the Heyward Family Cemetery, St. Luke’s Parish, S.C.
Read more about Thomas Heyward, Jr. here.