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. Governor’s 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 Jehovah’s Witnesses’ unusual beliefs have had on the extensions of freedoms guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution.

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 Southampton.

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 Carolina’s 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.

Bill’s 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 Asheville’s 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 life.

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 efforts.

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 Bill’s 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, 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 , for information, (803) 777-3405.