BEAUFORT – Samuel "Sam" Lawrence Svalina, 78, of Beaufort, South Carolina, died peacefully at the Cleveland Clinic on November 16, 2013, after a well fought battle with kidney cancer. Sam was born on July 2, 1935 to his parents Genevieve Gaskowski Svalina and Nicholas Svalina of Chicago, Illinois. After his mother's death, he was raised by his maternal aunt, Jane Perwas, who is 95 years old and still resides in Chicago. His surviving sisters are Nancy Larson and Kathy Berry, both of Tampa, Florida. Sam was predeceased by his wife, Diana Popoff Svalina, their daughter, Linda Svalina, and his brother, Nicholas Svalina. Surviving Sam are his son, Samuel “Sammy” S. Svalina, and his grandchildren, Samuel Tristan Svalina, and Sophia Lynn Svalina of Bluffton, South Carolina. Also surviving Sam are his fiancé, Alyce Walsh, and her children, Bryan Patrick Walsh, Teresa Starling and her two children, Dustyn Michael Velez and Sidney Grace Starling all of Beaufort, South Carolina.
Sam graduated from John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois in 1959 and was admitted to the Illinois state bar the same year. He served as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago from 1959 to 1967, and also during this time headed the Democratic Party of South Chicago Precinct for the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960. Sam served as the president of the South Chicago Bar Association from 1966 to 1967. In March 1968, Sam moved to Beaufort, South Carolina with his wife Diana and son Sammy. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar the same year and began practicing law as an associate at the law firm of Dowling Dowling Sanders and Dukes, P.A. Upon his arrival to the low country, Sam instantly enjoyed the friendships he made and learning how to practice law in the small beautiful town of Beaufort. Sam practiced with the Dowling firm for 20 years, and eventually became a named partner. In 1988, Sam left the law firm of Dowling, Sanders, Dukes, Novit and Svalina to establish his own practice, Svalina Law Firm, P.A., with his son and partner, Sammy Svalina.
Throughout his illustrious career as a trial lawyer, Sam was actively involved in a number of organizations and served as President of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association (1994-1995) and the Southern Trial Lawyers Association (1992-1993), as Vice Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America Military Law Section, and Chairmen of the Beaufort County Democratic Party from 1996-1999. Sam was board certified in Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and was admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court Southern District of Georgia, U.S. District Court District of South Carolina, 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. He also was a member of the Melvin Belli Society, South Carolina Association for Justice, Injured Workers Advocates, American Bar Association, Beaufort County Bar Association, and a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.
Sam was well known throughout the community for his patriotism, loud voice and unyielding personality. He was the quintessential “small town lawyer” and was willing to help anyone that walked through the door of his office. Sam passionately believed in the pursuit of justice and the importance of defending the rights of those unable to defend themselves. While some might remember him for his zealous representation of clients in the court room and winning large verdicts, those that knew him best will remember his heart of gold and willingness to go to great lengths to assist people as a matter of principle with no discussion of a fee.
The family will receive friends from 2 until 5 o'clock Sunday afternoon, November 24, 2013, at Copeland Funeral Service – One Copeland Drive, with a prayer service being held at 4:30 o'clock, and a reception for close family and friends following at the Tides Lounge at the Holiday Inn.
The funeral service will be held at 10:30 o'clock on Monday morning, November 25, 2013, at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Lady's Island, South Carolina. Burial will follow immediately thereafter at Beaufort Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Lowcountry Legal Volunteers at Post Office Box 2496, Bluffton, South Carolina 29910, in hopes that they can continue Sam’s lifetime mission to bring justice to our community’s most vulnerable citizens.