The second annual Award was presented to William R. Byars, Jr., Director of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), at a ceremony held on February 24, 2004.
At DJJ, Judge Byars oversees a staff of 1,500 who are responsible for the daily care, treatment, and education of approximately 1,600 juveniles who are incarcerated in DJJ’s long-term institutions and 7,000 juveniles who are served throughout the communities in arbitration, diversion, and alternative placement programs. Overall, the Department of Juvenile Justice serves approximately 28,000 juveniles annually.
Judge Byars has served as Director of the Children’s Law Office at the University of South Carolina School of Law and as Family Court Judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit from 1989 to August 1999. He resigned his judgeship to assume the position with the Children’s Law Office and work full-time on legal issues involving children and families. From 1994 to 1998, Judge Byars served as an executive committee member of South Carolina’s Families for Kids, working for child welfare reform. He served as the Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice from 1995-1999, and as President of the South Carolina Conference of Family Court Judges in 1995-1996. From 1995-1999, he served on the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice. He served as Co-Chair of the South Carolina Truancy Task Force and chaired the South Carolina Underage Drinking Task Force. He Co-Chaired the Blue Ribbon Task Force of the South Carolina Fatherhood Policy Project Office and serves on the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee.
He received the Champion for Children Award from the Alliance for South Carolina’s Children in 1998, and awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner for “Outstanding Leadership and Service in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect” in 1996 and 1998. In 1998, Judge Byars received a Child Advocacy National Certificate of Recognition from the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division for “significant legal contributions advancing the welfare of our nation’s children.” In 1999 Judge Byars received South Carolina’s highest civilian award, The Order of the Palmetto, from the Governor for “leadership in juvenile justice and children’s law reform,” as well as awards from Prevent Child Abuse South Carolina The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. In 2000 he was recognized by South Carolina Families for Kids for “Outstanding leadership in improving services to children in South Carolina,” and received a special award from the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys for “Extraordinary Commitment to the Welfare of Children.” The South Carolina Council on Adoptable Children presented the Judge a Lifetime Achievement Award in April 2002.
He and his wife, Camille, have been happily married for 36 years. They live in the country in Kershaw County. They have three sons and two grandchildren.