Willcox v. Stroup – 467 F.3d 409 (4th Cir. 2006)

Case Name: Willcox v. Stroup
Plaintiff: Thomas Law Willcox
Defendant: Stroup (Director of the SC Department of Archives/History and the State of South Carolina
Citation: 467 F.3d 409 (4th Cir. 2006)

Issue: Whether the plaintiff had good title of the Civil War documents when they had been in his family’s possession for over one hundred and forty years and there was no evidence that showed any other had title to the property.

Key Facts: The plaintiff found 444 documents from the administrations of two governors of South Carolina during the Civil War in a shopping bag in his late stepmother’s home. The documents have an appraised value of $2.4 million. The plaintiff allowed the documents to be microfilmed for the state archives. When the plaintiff attempted to sell the papers, the defendant obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the sale. The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that he owned the papers.

Reasoning: If there is no evidence to the contrary, proof of possession, is sufficient proof of title.

Rule of Law: Proof of possession is sufficient proof of title if there is no evidence to the contrary.