William Shepard McAninch
Bill McAninch, 77, of
Bat Cave and Asheville, NC, died on Friday, February 23, 2018, at the
St. Joseph Campus of Mission Hospitals.
Bill had a long, interesting, wonderful life. He was born in Little
Rock, Arkansas, in 1940. Although he grew up in the south with the
prejudices of that era, his thoughts and beliefs were transformed
through his life experiences.
He went to college at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he met
Jerry, the love of his life and his wife of 56 years.
He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, where for three
consecutive years he was the runner-up in the beer-drinking contest.
Nevertheless, he graduated with honors in sociology and economics. His
studies there strongly influenced his developing worldview. After
graduation, he briefly drove a cab while waiting to begin law school.
This, too, gave him a window into a world hidden to him before.
After Tulane, he entered the University of Arkansas School of Law in
Fayetteville, and, upon graduation, taught there briefly. He returned to
teach again as a distinguished alumnus in 1997.
Following law school, he began his active service in the U.S. Marine
Corps, attaining the rank of captain. This experience also was life
changing for him. In school and in the service, he had begun to become
affected by the inequalities that he saw in the world around him and
resolved to do what he could to correct these injustices.
Following his service in the Marines, he earned a graduate law degree at
Yale University. He found his time at Yale the most intellectually
stimulating of his life.
He joined the faculty of the University of South Carolina School of Law
where he spent most of his professional life. Early on, he developed a
clinic in which third year law students under his supervision served as
attorneys for indigent inmates of the Department of Corrections.
His primary teaching interests centered on criminal law and procedure,
and constitutional law. Additionally, he taught seminars on capital
punishment and other related areas. He developed a seminar in which
trial court judges and law students together analyzed sentences in
recent criminal court cases.
For many years he worked with the S.C. Governorís office pro bono on
developing fair sentencing guidelines for judges.
He wrote extensively on criminal and constitutional law. He developed
and wrote "The Criminal Law of South Carolina" and numerous
subsequent revised editions thereof, up to and even beyond his
retirement. This book was an essential guide for all lawyers and judges
in South Carolina. It was so useful to the legal community that he went
on to co-author a similar book for all citizens, "Guide to South
Carolina Criminal Law and Procedure." Both these books went through
numerous revisions and editions, and both are still being published and
continue to serve their original purposes. In addition, he co-authored
"The Rights of the Confined" with Don Wedlock, which was one
of the first books to examine the rights of a then often-marginalized
group. He wrote numerous law review articles, most notably one examining
the important role Jehovahís Witnessesí unusual beliefs have had on
the extensions of freedoms guaranteed to all citizens by the
He was always interested in civil liberties issues and served as a pro
bono legal consultant in many such cases. He also served on the national
Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union. This role
combined with his earlier experiences in the Marine Corps gave him a
unique and valuable perspective on many issues.
He sought to teach not only by the Socratic Method, but also by
experiential learning, such as leading student tours into prisons,
student ride-alongs with police officers, and the aforementioned seminar
working on sentencing with judges.
At the law school, students referred to him as "Mac the Knife"
due to his high expectations of student preparedness and scholarship. He
invariably graded anonymously, never on the curve, and always awarded
students the grade they themselves had earned. He often wore bowties,
and students once paid tribute to him by all wearing bowties themselves
on the last day of class.
Bill and Jerry lived twice in England, first in 1985, when he was
affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in London, and
then in 1989, when he taught constitutional law at the University of
In 2002, he retired from the law school where he had by then become the
Solomon Blatt Professor of Law. He felt that he could not have had a
more rewarding career.
As a parting gift to the law school, he and his wife, Jerry, established
a loan forgiveness fund to help recent graduates working in public
interest law positions such as legal aid, public defense, environmental
law, and others focusing on the public good. These lawyers often make so
little that is difficult for them to repay their educational loans.
In retirement, he and Jerry moved permanently to their long-time
retreat, a beautiful, isolated home on the Rocky Broad River near Bat
Cave, North Carolina, and not far from the city of Asheville with its
vibrant art scene, fine restaurants, and 20+ microbreweries.
For a time, Bill transitioned into retirement by commuting from his home
in North Carolinaís Hickory Nut Gorge to Wofford College in
Spartanburg, SC, where his daughter, Cecile, is a professor. There,
without recompense, he taught classes on law and provided support to
other professors teaching courses that touched on legal issues.
Billís interests in retirement shifted, but remained centered on the
greater good. He focused especially on land conservation, volunteering
and supporting The Nature Conservancy and especially Carolina Mountain
Land Conservancy (now called Conserving Carolina), where he served on
the board, on numerous committees, and as a monitor of conserved lands.
He strongly supported Ashevilleís arts organizations, particularly
Diana Wortham Theatre, North Carolina Stage Company, Terpsichore Dance,
and the Asheville Symphony.
He was also an active member of the local Yale Alumni Club. In support
of their of community service project, he took his golden retriever
therapy dog, Star, to Hall Fletcher Elementary School where together
they helped first graders learn to read.
He and Jerry traveled extensively, especially while living in England
and in retirement. Bill loved hiking, too, almost daily taking one of
the two excellent hikes that began right outside their door. All in all,
they found retirement to be one of the most fulfilling times of their
He was not only a brilliant intellect, but he was also a wise,
thoughtful, kind, witty man, ready to tell a funny story or offer a
generous helping hand to family, friends, institutions, and complete
strangers. He was modest about his talents and generosity, often
preferring anonymity, except when hoping to encourage others to join his
Bill was the son of Arthur Neal McAninch and Virginia Shepard McAninch
and was raised from age 4 by his stepmother, Cecil Henderson McAninch.
In addition to his beloved wife, Jerry Wright Burford McAninch, he
leaves his adoring daughter, Dr. Cecile McAninch Nowatka, her husband,
Dr. Thomas Christian McAninch Nowatka, their twins, Thomas William
"Will" McAninch Nowatka, Helen Cecile McAninch Nowatka; loving
son, Shepard Wright McAninch, and his triplets, Collin Peyton McAninch,
Kyle Shepard McAninch, and Andrew Livingston McAninch. He is also
survived by his brother, Arthur Neal McAninch, Jr. and wife, Sonja.
A celebration of Billís life will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Conserving Carolina
(formerly Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) in care of Lynn Killian,
847 Case Street, Hendersonville, NC 28792 or to firstname.lastname@example.org,
for information (828) 697-5777; or they may be made to The Public
Interest Law Loan Forgiveness Fund, in care of Pamela Robinson,
University of South Carolina School of Law, 1525 Senate Street,
Columbia, SC 29208 or Robinspd@law.sc.edu. , for information, (803)