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Born ‘Unnamed,’ SC man hits legal snag to get REAL ID

Excerpts taken from an article originally published in The State on August 15, 2019.

Gerald Farrow Clinkscales never thought getting his new driver’s license would be stressful.

But then he started the process of getting a new REAL ID.

Clinkscales, who turns 66 in November, had no idea he was about to embark on a months-long process to get his ID, which would lead to him hiring an attorney and waiting for a judge.

That process — nearly a year in the making — started when the DMV employee told Clinkscales, “I can’t take this birth certificate because your name isn’t on it,” and handed him back his slightly worn, wallet-sized birth certificate that shows his birth number, the county registrar’s name, his parents’ names and the one printed as his own: “Unnamed Clinkscales.”

Clinkscales, whose due date hovered around Christmas, was born prematurely in Greenville County on Nov. 18, 1953, leaving his mother, Loreda, and his father, Louie, unsure of whether he would survive, he said.

“So, they just put ‘Unnamed’ on the birth certificate,” said Clinkscales, the middle of six children and the only one with this dilemma.

The process of changing a birth certificate can be time-consuming, complicated and can be costly.

For starters, Leslie Fisk [managing attorney of South Carolina Legal Services’ Greenwood office] said clients must get their fingerprints made and pay for background, child custody and neglect and alimony checks, some of which can be waived through Legal Services and other nonprofits.

Other fees are charged, too, including a $150 court filing fee, unless a client can show they are unable to pay the charge.

“It’s also hard for people with low income to get rides and transportation and to have someone watch their kids,” said Fisk, who added it also can be traumatic for older adults to get their fingerprints taken.

Meanwhile, heavy caseloads for attorneys and Family Court that may meet once a month, particularly in the state’s more rural counties, can mean months of waiting. And, through the years, Fisk said, the state’s regulations on name changes have gotten tighter.

The process becomes overwhelming for people and “leads to people just giving up through frustration,” Fisk said.

In Clinkscales’ case, … they’re hopeful they’ll get a hearing by the fall.

Frustrated by the time lapse, Clinkscales said he’s considered simply changing his name to “Unnamed.”

But, he acknowledged, “I would have to change my Social Security card, my bank records. It would make it even more complicated.”

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