Alva Lumpkin was born in Milledgeville, Georgia in 1886 and sometime in the 1890’s his family moved to Columbia. He obtained an LL.B. from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1908 and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in the same year. He first practiced in the firm of Thomas (John P.) and Lumpkin, then next in the firm of Thomas, Lumpkin and Cain (Pinckney). In 1912, he married Mary Sumter Thomas and they had two children; Mary Waties (Mrs. Thomas H. Pope, Jr.) and Alva Moore Lumpkin, Jr., a member of the Columbia bar.
The man is revealed by the high-level positions in which he labored — in the United States Diplomatic Missions, in the State Legislature, State Judiciary (often receiving special appointments), as a Director of various insurance corporations, as Supreme Commander of the Knights of Pythias for the United States and Canada, as a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates, as a President of the South Carolina Bar Association, as a United States District Judge, and as a United States Senator (serving in that position at his death).
The practice of law was natural to him. He was a lawyer of high level, a gentleman, master of the art of handling a heavy practice and always had time to render many public and community services.