In 1965, Tom Turnipseed established the law firm now known as Turnipseed & Associates. For over forty years in South Carolina, we have assisted injured victims of auto accidents, workplace accidents, and dangerous or defective products, with a special emphasis on crash worthiness of vehicles and truck related accidents. We have proudly worked to insure justice for victims of hate crimes, environmental degradation, and other negligence and wrongdoing.
One of the more historically important cases the firm has had the privilege to be associated with, was when Tom Turnipseed became co-counsel for the Macedonia Baptist Church in Clarendon County, S.C. in their case against the Ku Klux Klan for burning their church in 1997. The African-American congregation won a $37,000,000 jury verdict against the Klan in 1998. The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that the financial penalty transformed the KKK group “from one of the most active Klan groups in the nation to a defunct organization”.
Turnipseed & Associates’ offices are located in the historic Davis House located at 1530 Richland Street, Columbia, South Carolina. Edmund P. Davis erected this Columbia Cottage style home in the 1880s after the original home burned in 1868. In 1925, the residence was updated with dormers and a remodeled front porch. Like other former homes in the historic district, this property has been adaptively reused for commercial purposes.
Tom Turnipseed was the founder of Turnipseed & Associates. He served the citizens of South Carolina from 1964, until his death in 2020, as an attorney, a political and civic leader, and an advocate for consumer, environmental and civil rights, the civil justice system and world peace.
Tom attended Lees-McRae College on a football scholarship and then went on to receive his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he met his wife Judy. Married in 1963, Tom and Judy moved to Columbia in 1971, where Tom practiced law for over 45 years. He dedicated his practice to representing everyday people.
A central arc of Tom’s life was that of a “reformed racist”, having transformed himself from a young man who was the Executive Director of Governor George Wallace’s presidential campaign to a passionate activist for social justice up to his final days. He spent his life dedicated to the causes of global peace, environmental protection, consumer rights, mental health, and racial justice and equality.
In the 1970s, Tom helped lead a successful campaign that reformed electrical rate practices that discriminated against low income ratepayers and changed the method of selection of the regulatory agency, The Public Service Commission. A member of the board of the Mental Health Association of SC, Tom spoke openly about his depression as a high school and college student.
Tom had a long history of involvement in state politics. He and his brother, David, were the first brothers to serve simultaneously in the State Senate (1976-1980). In 1980, he was the Democratic nominee for Congress for the 2nd Congressional District. He was a member of the executive committee for Lexington County and a member of the executive committee and executive council of the South Carolina Democratic Party. In 1998, he was the Democratic nominee for Attorney General, carrying 26 counties and winning over 46 percent of the vote.
As President of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association (1991 – 1992), Tom led a successful fight in the South Carolina Legislature to defeat the so-called “no fault” auto insurance bill that was the major initiative of a popular Governor. He emphasized how such legislation would cause higher insurance rates and severely limit a citizen’s right to trial by jury. He also wrote and produced numerous articles and television ads informing citizens of the attack on the fundamental right of trial by jury led by giant corporations and their political allies in the so-called “tort reform” movement.
Tom was the founding chairman of the Citizens Local Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) and was a life member of the NAACP. Tom was co-counsel for the Macedonia Baptist Church in Clarendon County, SC in their case against the Ku Klux Klan for burning their church in 1997, in which they won a $37,000,000 verdict. In 1998, Tom received the Holmes Weatherly Award, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s highest honor for the pursuit of social justice.
Tom hosted “The Seed Show” on the radio that provided a forum for discussing diverse issues. He frequently spoke about and authored materials on political and human rights and was published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other national publications. Tom’s political papers and memorabilia are housed in the South Carolina Political Collections, The University of South Carolina (Thomas Cooper Library).
In the later stages of his life, Tom dedicated himself to the issue of homelessness. He was a board member of Homeless Helping Homeless and supported Silent Voices, a talent showcase for homeless artists. For 17 years, as part of Food Not Bombs, Tom and Judy shared food with hungry and homeless people every Sunday in Finlay Park and considered it the most meaningful part of their week.
Tom loved growing vegetables, being in nature, singing in various groups, and spending time with his family, especially in Edisto.
Turnipseed & Associates strives to live up to Tom’s legacy of representing and sticking up for everyday people.
Tom Turnipseed and the Rev. Jonathan Mouzon celebrate with the congregation of Macedonia Baptist Church after the church was awarded $37.8 million in a civil trial against the Ku Klux Klan.