J. Kendall Few

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Obituaries in Greenville, SC | The Greenville News

Joseph Kendall Few, 84, son of Joseph Allan Few and Mary Read Dodgen Few, died May 26, 2024.

Kendall was born on August 10, 1939 at Samsun, Turkey, where his native South Carolinian parents lived while his father worked as a buyer of Turkish aromatic tobacco. In the fall of 1939, Kendall, his older brother Robert, and his parents barely made it out of the Black Sea and across the Aegean Sea to Athens before the Mediterranean was closed to non-military travel. The family legend is they caught the last American civilian ship out of Europe before the War. After short stays in Washington, D.C. and Oxford, N.C., the family returned home to South Carolina in 1946 and settled on a farm outside of Anderson.

Kendall attended Woodberry Forest School in Virginia before returning to Anderson to graduate Boys' High School in 1957, where he starred as a tight end on the football team. After attending Vanderbilt University and The Citadel, Kendall graduated the University of South Carolina in 1961 with a B.S. in Business Administration. He eventually attended law school at the University of South Carolina. While in law school Kendall served as Editor in Chief of the South Carolina Law Review. He graduated third in his class in 1966.

Kendall was a trial lawyer who prided himself on bringing justice to the victims of corporate greed and misconduct. He began his career in law as a civil defense trial lawyer in Greenwood and spent a short time as a County Judge in Oconee County. He then spent almost forty years as a plaintiff's trial lawyer in Greenville handling complex products liability, environmental contamination, and business litigation. He gradually retired between about 2010 and 2015. In his long career, he tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict and argued dozens of appeals before the Supreme Court of South Carolina, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and other appellate courts. In 1995, he argued Peacock v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 349 (1996), before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Kendall was a proud descendant of James Few—a leader of the Regulators—who was hanged by Governor Tryon of North Carolina at the Battle of Alamance in May 1771. Historian George Bancroft called James Few "the first martyr in the cause of American independence," and Kendall did everything he could to carry that fight for freedom and individual rights into the present day, particularly in the courtrooms of South Carolina.

Kendall received numerous awards for his accomplishments as a trial lawyer, including the War Horse Award (2001) from the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, and the Founders Award (1997) and Public Citizens Award (1993) from the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association, now the South Carolina Association for Justice. Limestone University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law degree in 1990 after—as then-President Fred Payne often stated—"Kendall Few saved Limestone College" through his legal work, which he did for Limestone at no charge.

In March 2000, the international weekly newspaper Automotive News published a profile on Kendall in which they called him "The Watchdog" for his impact on automotive safety through crashworthiness products liability litigation. In February 1999, Kendall was a featured interviewee on a 60 Minutes episode entitled "Perjury and Obstruction of Justice?" exploring allegations of litigation discovery abuse by General Motors and its counsel Kenneth Starr. In July 1988, The Greenville News ran a front-page, Sunday-edition article on Kendall entitled, "Champion of America's Promise—Kendall Few is a 'law machine' for the Common Man." In that article, his long-time friend and co-counsel James R. Gilreath of Greenville said, "He is a brilliant lawyer, the hardest-working lawyer I know. Once you get him on track on something, it's unbelievable." Kendall Few understood—as well as any lawyer of his time—the positive role lawyers can play in American society and how to use his law license to help people live better lives.

Kendall got "on track" on many non-legal projects too. He planted and maintained a "Fern Preserve" on his property surrounding his home near Greer with over 10,000 ferns representing more than 150 different species, some imported from as far away as Japan. He published an article about his ferns in the Spring 2005 edition of the Hardy Fern Foundation Quarterly in which he documented his extensive research on fern growth in the Piedmont of South Carolina. Kendall built a model train set that barely fit inside a three-truck garage, collected classic engravings from all over the world and self-published them in a series of books, specialized in "the finest" homegrown and homemade hot pepper sauce, and studied voraciously on a wide variety of other topics, particularly history. He also served as the illustrator for his mother's four published books, and he drew and published a detailed map of the City of Greenwood, as it existed around 1908, using historical data he found through extensive research.

Kendall was also a writer and a poet. In 1993, he wrote and published In Defense of Trial by Jury, a two-volume treatise on the history and value of the civil jury trial. He donated copies of the treatise to law libraries all over the country, where researchers use them to this day. Kendall's treatise has been cited in published opinions of the appellate courts of South Carolina and at least four other states. He wrote and self-published many poems, including one about his path from the farm where he grew up to a career in law entitled, From the Cowbarn to the Courtroom. Kendall was a popular and frequent speaker, and he gave several hundred legal education presentations on law and trial strategy in almost every state in the country.

Kendall is survived by his wife of almost 50 years Judith McClain Few; son John Cannon Few, son Wesley Dodgen Few and wife Kimberly, step-daughter Sherri Mason Custance and husband John, daughter Elizabeth Kendall Few; brother Nace D. Few; as well as grandchildren Reed Few Pangraze (Eric), Anna Gillespie Few, William Evans Few (Libby), Cannon Mims Few, James MacRae Few, MaryWesley Few, and Marlowe Jean Maguire; step-grandchildren Christopher McClain Hardy and Bryson Riddick Hardy; and great-grandchildren Milo Riser Pangraze and Evie Jane Pangraze. He was predeceased by his parents, brothers Robert Pierce Few and Joseph Allan Few Jr., step-son Michael Keith Mason (2001), and grandsons Thomas Heard Few (2020) and Fielder Jennings Few (2004).

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, family and friends consider a memorial gift to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America at alzfdn.org/donate/.

Posted online on May 28, 2024