Area’s oldest law firm celebrates 125th anniversary
The area’s oldest law firm, Wilcox, Buyck & Williams, will celebrate its 125th anniversary today with a special dinner for current members of the firm and their spouses.
Fred L. Willcox and, his cousin, Phillip Alston Willcox, began the firm in 1985 representing the area’s industry and Phillip became solicitor general for the Atlantic Coast Line railroad company. Members of the firm laid the groundwork for state and national bar associations, the development of the University of South Carolina in Florence, which became Francis Marion University, and the City of Florence. Except for the Equity Partners of Mark Buyck Jr., Hugh L. Willcox Jr. and Reynolds Williams, all the other members of the firm and the firm’s paralegals are younger professionals.
From its earliest days, the firm’s lawyers have engaged in practice for individuals, businesses and corporations and participated in a wide variety of business and civic enterprises. Apart from the rapid success of the firm, its members were connected in one way or another with most economic and social advances in the region. From railroad timber and bright leaf tobacco, both Florence hospitals, International Paper company, the Florence Air Base, McCall Farms, Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation, and the DuPont Company’s initial entries into Florence, these lawyers were always heavily involved.
They have served on the city council, university and college boards of trustees ands boards of visitors, U.S. attorneys, and municipal judges, and special circuit judges. Today they sit on a wide variety of community, religious and corporate boards, continuing the legacy that began 125 years ago.
Since its founding, the firm has maintained a presence throughout the Pee Dee and Grand Strand. In 1900, the firm opened an office in Georgetown to serve in the needs of Atlantic Coast Lumber Co. The firm currently maintains an office in Myrtle Beach that is mainly engaged in the real estate market.
Melvin Purvis, who practiced law with the firm after graduating from the University of South Carolina in the 1920s, left the firm to become an FBI agent. He is known as the “man who got Dillinger” after he led the manhunt that led to Dillinger’s capture. He also nabbed Pretty Boy Floyd and other fugitives. He married P.A. Willcox’s daughter, Rosanne.
The initial name of the firm was Willcox and Willcox. The names of other partners have been added through the years. lawyers who have practiced at the firm include D. Gordon Baker, who became Chief Justice of South Carolina; Henry E. Davis, who became a U.S. attorney and author; Hugh L. Willcox, who served on the Board of Trustees at Carolinas for 20 years; Weston Houck, who later became a U.S. District Judge; Richard A. Palmer, who represented Carolina, Power & Light Co.; James McLeod, a longtime McLeod Hospital trustee; and Lauier O’Farrell, specializing in property law.
Twenty-five years ago, Roy Talbert wrote a book entitled, “No Greater Legacy: The Centennial History of Willcox, McLeod, Buyck & Williams, 1895 – 1985,” to celebrate the firm’s 100th anniversary. The conclusion of the book points out that “Five generations of lawyers from this firm have served the Carolinas. They have not only excelled in their profession, but also have rendered extraordinary support to their region and their nation. Their record of remarkable and continuing contribution in social service, in economic development, and in advancing the legal profession is a matter of genuine historic significance. Indeed, the success of this firm is a major part of the development of Florence, the Pee Dee and the New South.