Creator Charleston (S.C.). Corporation Counsel
Date 1874–1967
Physical description 2 linear feet
Preferred Citation [Identification of the Specific Item], Records of Corporation Counsel, 1874–1967, City of Charleston Records, Charleston Archive, Charleston County Public Library, Charleston, SC.
Repository The Charleston Archive
Compiled By Processed 2009, K. Gray. Previous inventories published in “Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the City of Charleston,” July 1981, M. F. Holling and “Descriptive Inventory of the City of Charleston,” July 1996, S. L. King.
Access to materials Collection is open for research.
Subject Headings Legal opinions--South Carolina--Charleston
Law--South Carolina--Charleston
City attorneys--South Carolina--Charleston
City attorneys’ opinions--South Carolina--Charleston
  Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available online.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of the Opinions of Corporation Counsel, Case Files, and Administrative Records.

The Opinions of Corporation Counsel (1874–1960) consist of official advice and legal opinions given by the Corporation Counsel to various members of government, including the Mayor, Council members, municipal department heads, etc. The opinions are typically sought and issued before action is actually taken on a particular topic, and are usually expressed in the form of correspondence to the individual requesting the advice. Some files also contain supporting documentation, such as additional correspondence. Arrangement is chronological by year.

The Corporation Counsel Case Files (1875–1961) contain documents pertaining to instances in which Counsel has acted on behalf of the city. These instances include lawsuits, legal agreements, contracts, creation of ordinances, issuance of bonds, and other city business. The types of documents found in the files include correspondence, blueprints, plats, legal documents, affidavits, court documents, and ordinances. These files are arranged chronologically by year (for those files that span several years, the first date in the files is used for the purposes of arrangement).

The Administrative Records (1909–1967) consist of papers detailing the management of the office of the Corporation Counsel. These records include correspondence, annual reports, and various recordkeeping files.

Note: The office of Corporation Counsel came into existence in 1875. All materials in this collection date from that year onward, with the exception of a single legal opinion, which was written by the City Attorney in 1874.


Administrative/Biographical History

The earliest explanation of legal representation for the city of Charleston dates to 1792.1 In that year, Council passed an ordinance charging the City Recorder with the duties of, among other things, attending the Court of Wardens, giving his opinion in matters of law, prosecuting and defending all suits and informations in which the city had a concern, and drawing up all contracts, leases, and legal documents for the city. In addition, the City Recorder was required to lay before the City Council an account of all monies recovered and received. The Recorder was chosen by the Council members every two years and was paid the sum of sixty pounds (later $260) annually.2

The official legal duties for the City of Charleston remained the sole purview of the City Recorder until 1820, at which point they were given to the newly created office of City Attorney. However, the City Recorder was still expected to provide opinions, assist the City Attorney, and serve as assistant counsel whenever it was so requested by the City Council. As compensation for his duties, the City Attorney was entitled to keep monies recovered from defendants and charges for contracts and conveyances, as well as receiving an annual salary of $500. The amount of the annual salary was adjusted numerous times in the ensuing years.3

In 1873, the City Council passed an ordinance creating the office of Corporation Counsel. This individual would be responsible for those legal duties previously performed by the City Recorder and then the City Attorney. In addition, he was to make semi-annual reports to the City Council on the number and condition of all cases in which he appeared on behalf of the city. He was also required to make monthly payments to the city Treasurer, which included all sums he received on behalf of the City. Within three weeks of taking office, the Corporation Counsel was required to take out bonds in the amount of $5000 to insure the faithful performance of his duties and the payment of all city funds to the Treasurer. In return, the Corporation Counsel was paid the sum of $1500 yearly, as well as $400 per annum in compensation for all costs against the City in court.4 The office of Corporation Counsel still operates in the City of Charleston to the present day.

1 -- An ordinance of 03/24/1792 repealed portions of two earlier ordinances that pertained to City Recorder. The repealed portions of these earlier ordinances are not stated, therefore, it is impossible to say what the Recorder's duties were prior to 1792.

2 -- Ordinances of the City Council of Charleston, in the state of South Carolina, passed since the incorporation of the city. Collected by Alexander Edwards, W.P.Young, Charleston, 1802. Pg. 95

3 -- A Digest of the Ordinances of the City Council of Charleston, from the Year 1783 to Oct. 1844. Prepared by George B. Eckhard, Walker and Burke, 1844, Pg. 14

4 -- The Ordinances of the City of Charleston, revised and codified, and the Act of the General Assembly relating thereto. Compiled by E.W.M. Mackey, News and Courier Job Presses, 1875. pg.111



This collection comprises a portion of the historic records of the City of Charleston. These materials were put on permanent loan to the Charleston County Public Library by the City of Charleston Records Management Division in 2002.


Collection Outline

I. Opinions of Corporation Counsel  
Folder 1–72: Opinions, 1874–1945 Box 1
Folder 73–111: Opinions, 1946–1960 Box 2
For detailed folder inventory, see Table 1  
II. Case Files   
Folder 1–43: Cases, 1875–1948 Box 3
Folder 44–96: Cases, 1948–1961 Box 4
For detailed folder inventory, see Table 2  
III. Administrative Records Box 5
Folder 1: Correspondence, Clerk of Council, 1922–1926  
2: Correspondence, City Treasurer, 1924–1925  
3: Correspondence, Miscellaneous, 1909, 1923, 1924  
4: Annual Reports of Corporation Counsel, 1956–1962, 1966, 1967  
5: Unsatisfied Judgments, 1896  
6: Writs of Venire Facias, 1901–1906  
7: Cases Conducted at December Term, 1902  
8: Files of Corporation Counsel, Opinions and Important Reports, 1924–1935  
9: Transfer of Corporation Counsel Files, n.d.