Judge Robert Foster Chapman, born April 24, 1926, in Inman, South Carolina, as the middle son of the five sons of James Alfred Chapman and Martha Marshall Chapman, died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. He attended the public schools of Spartanburg and graduated from Spartanburg High School in 1943. He entered the U.S. Navy on July 1, 1943, in the V-12 Program at Emory and Henry College. In March of 1944, he transferred to the naval ROTC at the University of South Carolina and graduated in 1945 with a B.S. Degree and was commissioned as an ensign. He was assigned to Guam and commanded the ship YW-92 at age 19. He later attended the Crossroads Operation where atomic bombs were tested after the war.
He entered the University of South Carolina Law School in September of 1946 and graduated in January of 1949. He entered the practice of law as an associate in the firm of Osborne, Butler and Moore in Spartanburg, South Carolina and remained with this firm until December of 1951 when he was recalled to active duty with the U.S. Navy. He was on active duty as a Lieutenant from January of 1952 until October of 1953, on the staff of the Commander Naval Forces, Marianas Islands. He returned to Spartanburg in October of 1953 and formed the law firm of Butler and Chapman, which became Butler, Chapman, Parler and Morgan, where he practiced law until appointed by President Nixon in May of 1971 as a United States District Judge. In October of 1981, President Reagan appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit where he served until electing senior status in May of 1991.
Judge Chapman moved from Spartanburg to Camden, South Carolina shortly after he became a federal judge and he resided in Camden until moving back to Spartanburg in 2008.
He became active in the South Carolina Republican Party in the spring of 1960 and was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1960, 1964 and 1968. He served as the Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party from July of 1961 until March of 1963. He was the Chairman of the Spartanburg County Republican Party from 1964 through 1969.
He received the Order of the Palmetto in 1978; the National Patriot’s Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in 1985; an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of South Carolina in 1986; an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from the College of Charleston in 2000. He became a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association beginning on September 1, 1969.
He married Mary Winston (Wince) Gwathmey Chapman of Spartanburg on December 21, 1951 and took her with him to Guam. They had three sons: Edward Bates Chapman, born December 11, 1953, of Tryon, North Carolina; Alfred Foster Chapman, born October 16, 1955, of Spartanburg, South Carolina; and Winston Gwathmey Chapman, born November 11, 1958 of Breckenridge, Colorado. Wince Chapman was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Edward M. Gwathmey of Spartanburg and she died September 28, 1998. He married Mary Vail St. Georges of South Amboy, New Jersey on September 30, 2000. Mary died February 14, 2013.
He has three daughters in-law, Jeanette, Ruth and Ann; stepchildren, Joe St. Georges and Cathy St. Georges, and their children; eight grandchildren, Robert, Malsert, Gabrielle, Ian, Katie, Chelsea, Cameron and Daniel; four step-grandchildren, Hannah, Ben, Lori, and Will; and 10 great grandchildren.
Judge Chapman was the third son of the late Mr. and Mrs. James A Chapman of Spartanburg. His brothers who predeceased him were James A Chapman Jr; William Marshall Chapman; Joseph Wallace Chapman, and Hugh McMaster Chapman. He is survived by his brother-in-law, Edward M Gwathmey of Vail, Co.; and sister in-law, Elizabeth S. Chapman of Spartanburg, SC; and many nieces and nephews.
He was a Deacon and an Elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg and an Elder at Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Camden.
The family is most appreciative for the loving care rendered to the Judge by “his Ladies”: Toni Moore, Felicia Hollis, Betty Garrett, Courtney Oglesby, Karen Styles and Angie Lipscomb.
Honorary pallbearers will be the many law clerks who worked with and were mentored by the Judge over his career.
A memorial service will be held Monday, April 30, 4 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg.
Memorials may be made in Judge Chapman’s honor to The Linville Foundation, P.O. Box 99, Linville North Carolina 28646; or The Chapman Cultural Center, 200 East St John Street, Spartanburg, SC 29306.
Condolences may be expressed to the family at www.JMDunbar.com, Dunbar Funeral Home & Crematory.