On May 19, 2022, Judge John E. Waites received from Henry Dargan McMaster, the Governor of South Carolina, the highest award given to civilians in South Carolina, the Order of the Palmetto. Associate Justice John C. Few of the South Carolina Supreme Court presented the award to Judge Waites on behalf of the Governor. Judge Waites is a Columbia native and graduate of Davidson College and the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Among the many reasons cited for making this award to Judge Waites is his almost 28 years' service as a bankruptcy judge and 5 years as the US Trustee for Region 4; his expansion of the court's pro bono program; and his founding of the South Carolina Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) Program, which brings much needed financial education into South Carolina high schools and colleges. He has served two terms on the South Carolina Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, and he is one of the few judges to serve on the SC Bar Pro Bono Committee.
Judge Waites has worked on the national and local level to improve the bankruptcy system. He is the only South Carolina Judge to serve as President of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges and to be inducted as a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy. He has received recognition and awards from a variety of entities, including the Pro Bono Service Award from South Carolina Legal Services (2013), a Special Pro Bono Award from the SC Bar (2013), the J. Bratton Davis Professionalism Award, presented by the South Carolina Bankruptcy Law Association (2014), the Matthew J. Perry, Jr. Civility Award from the Richland County Bar Association (2015), the Pro Bono Service Award from the Legal Services Corporation of the U.S. (2016), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National CARE Financial Literacy Program (2019).
The Judges and staff of the Court congratulate Judge Waites on this well-deserved honor.