Thomas Heyward Tomb – Jasper County, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Jasper County Photos | Thomas Heyward Tomb
The tomb of Thomas Heyward, Jr, one of South Carolina’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence, stands just south of the intersection of SC 336 and SC 462 in Jasper County. Thomas Heyward was born to a wealthy family of South Carolina planters in 1746. Though he could have lived an idle life of privilege and leisure, he instead chose to pursue an education. Biographers find Heyward’s earnest studies during this time of his life remarkable because, given his family’s station and means, he would never need to work to earn a living.
During the early days of the American colonies, a proper legal education included study in England. Thomas Heyward followed this route and afterward, spent several additional years touring and living abroad. There he gained a deeper understanding of European history, culture, and government. Ultimately, Heyward decided he admired American simplicity and ingenuity over what he deemed European haughtiness and dependence on luxury. He returned home with a desire to use his education and life experience to benefit his local community and country.
Heyward started his own law practice but in 1775 was appointed to fill a vacancy in the US House of Representatives. He almost immediately became active in the growing movement to establish an independent government and nation. During the resulting Revolutionary War, he completed his term in Congress and returned to South Carolina to work first as a criminal court judge, and then as a battalion commander in the Army. At the end of the war, he participated in the convention that crafted South Carolina’s constitution, but otherwise devoted himself to legal rather than political affairs.
The Heyward family remained prominent in South Carolina. One of Thomas Heyward’s daughters married Major James Hamilton, who served as a South Carolina congressman, a US representative, mayor of the city of Charleston, and governor of South Carolina between 1830 and 1832. A niece married William Drayton, who also served as a state and US congressman, ultimately becoming the president of the US Bank in 1841. A later Heyward descendant, Duncan Clinch Heyward, served as Governor of the state between 1903 and 1907. In 1935, descendant Debose Heyward distinguished himself in the world of art when his novel Porgy was adapted by George Gershwin into the opera Porgy and Bess.
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