By Samantha Lylesslyles@newsandpress.net
When word spread that Judge Dan Causey had passed away on Jan. 4, it wasn’t long before friends and colleagues began sharing memories of the man who served as Darlington’s city judge for 30 years.
“I first met Dan when I came back to Darlington in 1975 to practice law,” recalls Bobby Kilgo, attorney and member of Darlington County Council. Kilgo remembers lawyer Causey as being “very zealous in his representation of his clients in family court” and very knowledgable on the application of the law.
Kilgo also shares that Causey was one of the last attorneys to use a fax machine for submission of court documents, mostly because he cannily observed that unscrupulous attorneys would use faxes to push through 11th-hour changes in attempts to wrong-foot opposing counsel.
“He detested (fax machines) and held off until the last possible moment, until the courts said that he had to have one,” Kilgo says.
Darlington County Coroner J. Todd Hardee knew Causey as his attorney, mentor and friend. He credits Causey’s counsel with shepherding the Billie Hardee Home for Boys from “a little foster home to one of the premier child care facilities in South Carolina.”
“But his work with me did not stop there,” Hardee wrote in a Facebook post. “As I grew older and began my life as an adult, he walked me through the legal process of buying my first house, buying several businesses, and establishing my first “will” (that I received in the mail, along with a bill, and a note that said “sign it, pay it, return it, you need it”!) When I became the County Coroner years ago, Dan became my mentor. He taught me legal proceedings, he taught me the law. But more importantly, he taught me the art of compassion while holding a gavel. He was the master! My entire life has been spent with Dan Causey as my friend. There will never be a day, until I too enter the church triumphant, that I don’t think of him or be reminded of his greatness. His family has lost a husband and a dad, this community has lost a pillar, the SCBAR has lost a real lawyer, the children of South Carolina have lost a huge advocate, and me, and a million others like me, have lost a dear friend.”
Hardee also shared another memory with The News & Press – one that highlighted Causey’s deft understanding of the law and helped put two murderers in jail for life. Hardee recalls that in 1993, while he was in the mortuary transport business, he received a call from the Marlboro County Coroner to transport a John Doe body found in a McColl swamp. The body was taken to a Lexington funeral home for refrigerated storage, but the advanced decomposition made long-term cooler storage unfeasible. Some of John Doe’s personal effects were left with Hardee, who boxed and buried them to preserve the items while isolating their powerful odor.
The Marlboro County coroner decided to have the still unidentified man cremated, and it was later discovered that the man was James Jordan, Sr., father of basketball superstar Michael Jordan. A murder investigation followed, and when SLED agents contacted Hardee regarding Jordan’s personal effects, he placed an early Sunday morning phone call to his lawyer: Dan Causey.
“He showed up with a pajama shirt on, smoking a cigarette,” Hardee remembers. “He told me that when SLED got here, I was to let him do the talking.”
Causey then discussed procedural requirements with the SLED agents and ensured that the chain of evidence remained intact. When the case went to court, defense attorneys were unable to impeach the evidence and Jordan’s murderers were sent to prison for life.
“I firmly believe that if Dan hadn’t come down here that morning, those two men would not have gone to jail,” says Hardee. “He stayed here half the morning in his pajama top, smoking, making sure that they did everything right so that the chain of evidence would be preserved. And when they were done and Dan got ready to leave, he just looked at me and said “You’re welcome.””
Former Mayor Tony Watkins remembers Judge Causey as jurist who practiced a kind of “tough love” from the bench, doling out tough sentences with the aim of steering offenders onto the straight and narrow.
“Judge Causey was a person who meted out justice on a regular basis and would from time to time come under criticism from those who had come before him. During my time on council and while I was Mayor I never heard a complaint that was well founded. I just think that the complaints were coming from some of the people who went before him, especially those who were sentenced by him for offenses they had committed. I always said that it couldn’t be much fun to go before Judge Dan Causey. I know that in reality he had a deep concern for those who were repeat offenders in the city’s judicial system,” says Watkins. “Those who knew Judge Causey knew him to be a man of fairness and integrity.”
Many more people shared memories of Causey on the Tribute Wall of the Kistler-Hardee Funeral Home website.
“Dan Causey gave me my first job out of high school. He was a great person & employer who showed such compassion for others. I have many memories of the time I was with his Law Firm. He touched my life in so many ways as he touched the lives of all who had the honor of knowing him. He will be missed by so many! I send my condolences to Nancy & Daniel along with prayers for God to bring comfort and peace to your hearts,” wrote Tammy Jones.
“I started my Law Enforcement career in 1994 and Judge Causey was there until 2017. This man taught me so much in those 23 years in the courtroom and outside the courtroom. Never did he NOT have time to discuss an issue or give advice. He was the BEST and he will be missed. Rest well sir!” wrote Capt. Michael Cooke, Darlington Police Department.
Daniel Beaufort Causey, III was born in Conway, but spent much of his life in Darlington. He graduated from The Citadel in 1964, then served as a lieutenant with the United States Army, 31st Infantry Regiment. While stationed in South Korea following the Korean War, Causey led patrol missions along DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and shared meals with Koreans living on both sides of the border.
Causey graduated law school at the University of South Carolina in 1971 and moved to Darlington to work with State Senator James Pierce “Spot” Mozingo, III. He eventually opened his own law practice and was renowned for working with clients from every racial and socioeconomic background.
In 1987, Causey was appointed Municipal Court Judge for the city of Darlington – a position he held for 30 years before retiring in 2017.
Causey also led the St. Matthew’s Church Youth Group, and served as a Vestry Member and Senior Warden of the church. He is survived by son Daniel B. Causey, IV, and wife Nancy P. Causey.
Donations in honor of Mr. Causey may be made to the St. Matthew’s Church Choral Fellowship by mail to P.O. Box 804, Darlington, SC 29540; or to the American Lung Association online at http://action.lung.org/goto/DanCausey.