John William Thurmond was born in Edgefield County. His father, George Washington Thurmond, fought in three wars: the Indian, Mexican and the Confederate, being at Appomattox with General Robert E. Lee.
He attended the University of South Carolina, read law under the Sheppard brothers and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1888. He was County Attorney, a Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1894 until 1896, Solicitor of the Fifth Judicial Circuit from 1896 through 1904, and United States Attorney from 1915 until 1921. He was often appointed as a Special Circuit Judge and as an Acting Associate Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. He was the author of Thurmond’s Key Cases, published in 1930. In 1934, the University of South Carolina awarded him a Doctor of Laws degree for distinguished service as a jurist and lawyer.
He married Eleanor Gertrude Strom; they had three teacher daughters, two physician sons, and a lawyer son who became a Circuit Judge, Governor of South Carolina and a United States Senator from South Carolina. He was a Baptist.
Great common sense, courage, and a progressive spirit attuned him to the people’s needs. He devoted his life to the cause of justice.
Chief Justice Eugene S. Blease said of him, “He was the best all around lawyer it was my opportunity to know.”