South Carolina Lawyers Weekly recently honored attorney Thomas A. McKinney with its Leadership in Law Award during a special ceremony held March 15 at The Frances Marion Hotel in Charleston.

The Leadership in Law Awards, now in their 11th year, recognize Palmetto State attorneys who go “above and beyond in their profession and in their community.” Honorees were first nominated by their peers and then selected by a panel based on criteria that included:

  • Professional achievement
  • Personal accomplishment
  • Community involvement.

Mr. McKinney, the founding partner of McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, grew up in the small community of Warrior Creek, South Carolina. The son of a Baptist minister and his wife, he spent his early years listening to his father preach three times a week and getting his education in a one-room school. At a young age, he developed an interest in attorney Clarence Darrow, which kindled his interest in civil rights, his opposition to capital punishment and, above all, his desire to become a trial lawyer.

Mr. McKinney initially attended Furman University and served as President of his freshman and sophomore classes. He met his future wife, Camille, while working as a counselor for a church camp and traveled with her to Missouri, where he attended Southeast Missouri State for his junior year.

The couple married and returned to South Carolina, where Mr. McKinney earned his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina. He then went on to enroll at the University of South Carolina School of Law and earned his law degree after just two-and-a-half years of school.

In a profile for a special Leadership in Law publication, Mr. McKinney discussed with South Carolina Lawyers Weekly how his first job after law school involved working with estates at C&S Bank in Columbia.

“I learned very quickly from that experience that I wanted to do something else with my law degree, so I moved my family to Rock Hill, where I was able to pursue my dream of being a trial lawyer,” Mr. McKinney said.

“Becoming a trial lawyer is my biggest accomplishment because while it is very difficult and stressful, it’s also an opportunity that very few have, and the rewards are satisfying.”

Over the course of his legal career in Rock Hill, Mr. McKinney developed a highly regarded civil and criminal trial practice which included work on numerous high-profile cases. At the same time, he maintained heavy involvement in the local community and in the wider South Carolina legal community.

Over the years, Mr. McKinney has served as an officer in state and county bar associations. He also played an instrumental role in the establishment of the South Carolina Criminal Defense Association and served as one of its Board members for several years. Additionally, he has served as Chairman of Rock Hill’s annual Come-See-Me festival, and he has been actively involved with Sertoma, Jaycees, YMCA and Rock Hill Little Theater.

Today, Mr. McKinney continues to be active in the legal community as a Certified Mediator. He and his wife Camille have 2 sons and 3 grandchildren.