Jim Parham, known to one and all as “Poss,” left an indelible stamp on Wyche, and on each of us who was lucky enough to practice law with him. Poss was charming, inquisitive, brilliant and – like most good trial lawyers – occasionally mildly exasperating. Poss always had time to hear about your family, to have a long lunch, to share a drink after work, to ask a question that made you think, and to squeeze in one more round of revisions before you filed that brief.
Poss’s career traced an extraordinary arc. A native and product of the public schools of Sumter, South Carolina, Poss graduated from Princeton University in 1952 after serving as class president for three years and leading the successful effort to open the exclusive “eating clubs” to all students. Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, he then earned a Bachelor in Civil Law from Magdalen College at Oxford University. Upon graduation from Yale Law School, Parham served as a fighter pilot in the South Carolina Air National Guard.
In 1960, Poss joined Granville and Tommy Wyche, Al Burgess, and David Freeman as a name partner in “Wyche, Burgess, Freeman & Parham.” His warm spirit and keen intellect immediately became a key part of what would become a world-class law firm in South Carolina. Poss exemplified the philosophy that continues to guide us today: excellence over revenue maximization, community over narrow self-interest, and ingenuity over brute force. Poss was a nearly perfect example of Wyche’s uncommon approach to the practice of law, which is rooted in community transformation, societal impact, advancing the business community, and environmental stewardship.
Recognized for decades as one of South Carolina’s top trial lawyers, Poss guided clients (and judges and juries) through an endless variety of complex issues. Some of his most noteworthy legal accomplishments were done pro bono publico, “for the good of the public” — such as when Poss, while representing the Greenville County School District in Federal desegregation litigation, devised a “bi-racial committee” of respected community leaders (on which he served) which fostered non-violent integration of Greenville County public schools in 1970. In that case, as in so many others, Poss never lost patience, he never stopped asking questions, and he never gave up.
Throughout his career, Poss devoted his time and talent to countless organizations and initiatives to advance South Carolina. For one example, he served as the first President of the South Carolina Bar as it exists today, after the segregated bars merged into one in 1975.
He was recognized throughout his career among national third-party peer review publications (such as Best Lawyers and Chambers USA) as a leading attorney. In 2022, Poss received the DuRant Distinguished Public Service Award from the SC Bar Foundation. But Poss would have said – and we agree – that the more important accolades came from his colleagues across South Carolina and around the United States, who recognized him as a gentleman and a stunningly effective lawyer who was unfailingly courteous to friend and foe alike, while remaining dogged and undeterrable in pursuit of justice.
They don’t make many people like Poss. We were lucky to know him, and we will miss him.
In 2022, Jim Parham was honored by the SC Bar Foundation with the DuRant Distinguished Public Service Award, which recognizes a lifetime in the law marked by integrity, character, and active pursuits to ensure justice.
In times of sadness, it helps to remember our favorite stories about those who have shaped us. If you have a story about Poss, please share it with us here. We would love to hear from you.