SC-Exchange-LawFirm-100 years

In this May 2022 photo, Bill Harvey III stands next to a painting of his grandfather, W. Brantley Harvey Sr., who founded the Harvey and Battey law firm in Beaufort, S.C., in 1922, at the firm's offices on Craven Street. The firm turns 100 this month.

BEAUFORT, S.C. (AP) — The Beaufort law firm of Harvey and Battey — whose attorneys have served as some of the leading political figures in Beaufort County and the state — turns 100 years old this month.

That makes it the oldest law firm in Beaufort County, said Bill Harvey III, the grandson of the founder, and one of the oldest in South Carolina.

However, the century-old firm, housed in a nondescript building on Craven Street in Beaufort’s historic downtown, is not gazing in the rear-view mirror, Harvey adds. It is using the milestone as a springboard for future expansion.

“Generally, when you think of something that is as old as 100 years, you think of it as dying — old and dying,” Harvey told The Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet. “We are not. We have a very exciting, very active group of younger attorneys.”

W. Brantley Harvey Sr. founded Harvey and Battey in 1922.

Harvey III, Harvey Sr.’s grandson and the third generation of Harveys in the firm, credits “dedication to integrity” and the firm’s focus on public service, as opposed to chasing the “almighty dollar,” for Harvey-Battey’s longevity.

“Integrity is hard to maintain, and you can lose it very quickly,” Harvey III said. “Kind of like reputation. You only have one integrity, and it’s very hard to maintain with a multi-employee organization.”

Alex Murdaugh, 53, who worked for another 100-plus-year-old South Carolina firm, is a case in point in how quickly legal reputations can be lost.

PMPED, a Hampton-based firm started in 1910 by Randolph Murdaugh Sr., Murdaugh’s grandfather, changed its name to Parker Law Group in the wake of Alex Murdaugh’s alleged scheme to steal $8.4 million from clients, which has led to 15 indictments containing 79 charges.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, who has been with Harvey-Battey for 37 years, noted that W. Brantley Harvey Sr. and Randolph Murdaugh Sr. were second cousins.

While Harvey Sr. moved to Beaufort and entered into public life and service, said Davis, Murdaugh stayed in Hampton County and developed a powerful law firm.

“It’s kind of interesting that two cousins kind of went on different paths,” Davis said.

ACTIVE IN PUBLIC SERVICE

Harvey Sr. died in 1981.

W. Brantley Harvey Jr., his son and Bill Harvey III’s father, joined the firm in 1955. He was born in Walterboro and grew up on The Point in Beaufort. He died in 2018.

Colden R. Battey Jr. joined the firm in 1963. He’s retired but still spends a few hours in the office daily.

The firm’s attorneys have been active in public service and politics from the beginning.

Harvey Sr. was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1924, just two years after he founded the firm, and again 1926, before joining the South Carolina Senate in 1928. He represented Beaufort County for 24 years until 1952. He was the principal author of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.

Harvey Jr. was elected to the House in 1958 and served 16 years until 1974. He served as lieutenant governor from 1975­ to 1978. And he played a major role in acquiring the Beaufort campus of the University of South Carolina and in establishing the Technical College of the Lowcountry as one of the state’s 16 technical colleges.

Both were Democrats.

“We have not affirmatively promoted public service,” Harvey III said, “but I think it’s been a hallmark of our longevity.”

‘PROUD OF THE FIRM’

Political involvement continues today.

Davis, the longtime Harvey-Battey attorney and Republican state senator, said Harvey Jr. was a mentor. He got involved with public service because of the example the elder attorney set.

“We both had a passion for protecting the environment,” says Davis of Harvey Jr. “We both cared about education. We were both very frugal about money.”

And almost 100 years after Harvey Sr. first was elected to the Senate, Davis represents that same district.

“I’m really proud of the firm,” Davis said. “I’m proud of the history of public service we have.”

For his part, Harvey III has served as the city attorney for the City of Beaufort for the past 35 years. He looks at that position as a “quasi-public service,” and he takes pride in having helped shape the city’s policies and growth in that role.

Colden Battey Jr. assumed more responsibility in running the firm when Harvey Jr. was pursuing his political career. But Battey also was involved in public service locally, serving as chairman of the Beaufort County Council for eight years. And he was on the board of the Beaufort Jasper Higher Education Commission for 17 years.

FIRM’S CASES

Today, the firm has eight attorneys, and Harvey III said it’s the only full-service law firm in Beaufort, practicing personal injury, real estate, estate and family law among other specialties.

“There are certain things we don’t do,” he said, “but there’s not many.”

The firm recently resolved a multi-million-dollar personal injury case in which an 83-year-old foreign national was struck by a car in Charleston, Harvey III said. Part of the case has been settled for $3 million, while attorneys continue to work on the remaining settlement.

Harvey III is most proud of a $39.4 million settlement from a 2014 nationwide class-action lawsuit involving active duty service members who were overcharged on mortgage interest rates by JP Morgan Chase Bank. The firm represented Marine Corps Capt. Jonathon Rowles, the lead plaintiff, who alleged the bank violated the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act. That law was enacted in 1942 to protect deployed members of the military from financial duress while on active duty.

“We resolved that case very favorably for members of the military,” Harvey III said.

The firm is hiring new attorneys, he said. And it’s in the process of opening an office in Okatie.

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