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A Royall career

Camden attorney going strong as he celebrates 60th anniversary with law firm

Posted: August 27, 2013 6:39 p.m.
Updated: August 28, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Ed Royall/

C-I Web Extra: Royall visits with Annie Lee Truesdale, who managed the office for the Savage Law Firm for 34 years before retiring 26 years ago. She was a guest at the party celebrating Royall’s 60th anniversary with the firm.

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Ed Royall is not a subscriber to short-term commitment. On the contrary, this month the Camden lawyer is celebrating his 60th anniversary with the firm now known as Savage, Royall and Sheheen. And the active 83-year-old plans to keep right on working part time at the firm.

“It gives me a lot of satisfaction coming down here,” Royall said.

He originally practiced all types of law, but now specializes in estates, wills, trusts and some elder law advising. He has no plans to retire.

“I don’t think my wife wants me hanging around the house,” he said with a chuckle.

A native of Union who grew up in Mount Pleasant, Royall joined the Camden firm on Aug. 1, 1953, and it became known as Savage, Royall and Kennedy. That year was a memorable one for Royall for several reasons. Having attended The Citadel his freshman year, he transferred to the University of South Carolina (USC) to complete his undergraduate degree and participated in ROTC while in law school there. As a result, he received his commission from the United States Air Force (USAF) when he finished law school and was supposed to go into the service July 1. However, the original orders were cancelled as the Korean War was ending. So, he was able to begin his law career sooner than he had expected.

That memorable year was also the beginning of his 60-year marriage to his wife, Helen, whom he met at USC. They were married June 9, 1953. A month later, he was admitted to the bar.

So, the young couple was all set -- except the USAF had something else in mind. A year later, on April Fools’ Day no less, Royall’s father telephoned him and told him he had been called up by the Air Force. The young lawyer was sure his dad was playing an April Fools’ joke, but his father was serious. That call marked the beginning of a two-year stint with the Judge Advocates General (JAG) Corps at Parks Air Force Base in Pleasanton, Calif.

While with JAG, Royall defended 400 criminal cases, but afterward veered away from criminal law. Later, he did some trial law, divorce law and worked as a real estate attorney. An interesting note is that there was no divorce law in South Carolina until 1960, so people couldn’t get divorces in this state before then, Royall explained.

In good financial times, a real estate attorney would do closings mornings and afternoons. In the past, most lawyers practiced all types of law, but now they need to specialize, Royall said. Nowadays, even paralegals and legal assistants specialize.

“Don’t spend your entire life doing something you don’t enjoy,” Royall said is his advice to young lawyers.

He added that they have to do some experimenting to find out what it is that they enjoy most.

“You get that choice in a firm situation,” he said.

Savage, Royall and Sheheen is the largest law firm in Kershaw County. Besides Royall, it is named for the late Henry Savage, who founded the firm in 1926. Savage was not only a lawyer and a proponent of community service, but a man of letters and the author of seven books.

“He was a wonderful mentor to me,” Royall says.

Bob Sheheen is the third lawyer in the firm’s name.

Currently, there are seven lawyers in the firm. In addition to Royall and Bob Sheheen, they include William Cox, managing partner; Moultrie Burns; Vincent Sheheen; Stephen Smoak; and Michael Wright.

“I’m real proud of the firm. We have attorneys who are very involved in public affairs,” said Royall, who has been involved in public service throughout his career -- even before, having been an Eagle Scout since 1946.

He also pointed out that the firm has produced three judges from its former members: former Circuit Judge J. Ernest Kinard; current Family Court Judge Dana Morris; and former Family Court Judge Bill Byars, who just announced his retirement as director of the S.C. Department of Corrections.

As for his own involvement in public service, Royall served as chairman of Kershaw County Council from 1969 to 1975, filling the unexpired term of Leslie Myers, who had resigned. Later, Royall was elected for one term, but then decided not to run again.

In more recent years, he served as vice chairman of the Friends of the Camden Archives and Museum and as chairman of fundraising for the new wing and renovation.

“We raised about $800,000, and the new board is carrying on. It’s something I’m proud of that we all had a part in,” Royall said.

In a week or so, he will have been a member of the Camden Rotary Club for 57 years, having served as president in 1961. Royall said he strongly believes in the club motto: “Service above self.”

“I believe we should provide service whenever we can, and I’ve encouraged all the members of the firm to provide service.

“Of course, Grace (Episcopal) Church has been a big part of our life,” added Royall, who served on the vestry for 26 years.

The distinguished attorney made the ultimate sacrifice for the church Aug. 17. After having been drafted and suffering several pre-show nightmares, he competed as Queen Edwina with 12 other contestants in the WoMEN of Grace Beauty Pageant, an all-male fundraiser for mission work.

Yes, he competed in a form-fitting black evening gown with silver tennis shoes, bedazzled with sequins -- footwear designed by granddaughter Mary Royall Wilgis. For the talent competition, Queen Edwina and the other Group C contestants -- played by Patrick Floyd, Dan Cantey, Dr. John DuBose and Bill Herbert – created quite a splash with their synchronized swimming routine. And Queen Edwina -- front and center, smiling broadly while dipping below and rising above the water illusion -- earned the most votes from the audience to win the pageant.

“I hope that’s the last time,” Royall said of his onstage appearance in female finery.

Now back to the real Royall, who continues his community service: he has been on the Carolina Cup Racing Association Board for 30 years and the National Bank of South Carolina Advisory Board since 1991. Among numerous community activities, he is a past president of the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Kershaw County Bar Association and the United Way. Royall is also a past board chairman of York Place, originally an orphanage and now a home for emotionally disturbed children. He has received numerous recognitions and awards, including the 2012 local and state awards for service to community from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In addition to his law practice, Royall spent some time in real estate development. In 1961, he developed Wateree Hills with the late John Justice. Later, he was chairman of the board that developed Dewees Island. That venture started in 1972, and the island was sold in 1995.

The Royalls have four married daughters: Harriet and husband, Dr. Wadell “Bubba” Gilmore, of Mount Pleasant; Helen and husband, Harold “Son” Trask, also of Mount Pleasant; Allison and husband, Henry “Hank” Wall of Columbia; and Mary and husband Randy Wilgis of Camden. Incidentally, sons-in-law Trask and Wall are lawyers.

The Royalls also have 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, with two more expected in October.

So what’s the secret of a happy 60-year marriage?

“I have a very supportive wife, and we enjoy doing things together, traveling and visiting family members and having them visit us,” Royall said.

Those visits include a recent christening, an upcoming wedding, and a recent trip to Wisconsin for the ordination of grandson Pickett Wall as an Episcopal priest.

As for leisure activities, Royall loves the outdoors, wing shooting and gardening. One special event was a hunting trip to Argentina with all his sons-in-law and grandsons.

On Aug. 8, the law firm honored Royall’s 60th anniversary with a party for his family and firm members at Jack Brantley’s Aberdeen. On the firm’s behalf, Cox presented Royall with a framed montage, featuring photos of the senior partner in college, as a young lawyer and a more current photo, plus images of the office building years ago and now.

“I’m proud of the lawyers and all of the assistants in this firm,” Royall said, commending them for their contributions to the firm.

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