Born in Hampton County, he was the son of Emma Priester and Perry Wesley Lightsey. He was married to Ellen Dorothy Glenn of Varnville, South Carolina on December 24, 1926. They had two children, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
He served as master-in-equity for Richland County for over 36 years. Few jurists have served with as much distinction on the South Carolina Bench as Harry McKinley Lightsey. During his long career as master, he earned the esteem and appreciation of the Bar for his fair, no-nonsense disposition of legal matters.
Judge Lightsey received his A.B. and L.LB degrees from the University of South Carolina. While at the University, he was president of the senior class of 1922, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and all-state guard and captain of the football team. He is listed in Who’s Who in American Sports.
Judge Lightsey believed in the axiom, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Court hearings before him were brief and to the point. Rulings were marked by clarity, conciseness and alacrity.
He believed deeply in the dignity of the office he graced, treating all who came before him — litigants, witnesses and attorneys with unfailing respect and understanding. His masters’ reports were considered models of scholarship and were frequently praised by higher courts.