Dr. Harry McKinley Lightsey, Jr. was born on December 27, 1931 in Columbia, South Carolina, to Ellen Glenn and Harry M. Lightsey, Sr. He graduated from Dreher High School and Clemson University. Following his graduation from Clemson, he received a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Georgia. He practiced veterinary medicine in Allendale until 1958, when he returned to school to study law. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1961, graduating summa cum laude, Outstanding Law School Graduate, and First Honor Graduate.
Lightsey served as Assistant Attorney General for the State of South Carolina; general counsel to the S.C. Public Service Commission; and legal advisor to the president of the S.C. Senate, the S.C. Finance Committee, and the S.C. Senate Banking and Insurance Commission. He argued a number of groundbreaking civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and became recognized as one of the nation’s leading lawyers in the field of regulatory and administrative law.
Lightsey was a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law for nearly 20 years. In 1980, he became dean of the law school and served in that capacity until 1986, when he became president of the College of Charleston. During his tenure, the College of Charleston became the University of Charleston and was admitted into the NCAA. In 1992, he returned to Columbia and continued his law practice with the McNair Law Firm.
He was chairman of John C. West’s successful campaign for lieutenant governor in 1966 and served as chair of the S.C. Democratic Party in 1970. He also served on the National Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, and as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Belle W. Baruch Foundation. He was a member of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and served there as a member of the vestry. In 1991, he received the Durant Distinguished Public Service Award from the S.C. Bar Foundation, and in 1993 he received the Order of the Palmetto.
Harry loved the practice of law, but more than that he thrived on teaching it. He will be remembered for his great intellect and his keen sense of public service. Above all, he will be remembered as a teacher and leader in higher education and the law. As Governor McNair said at Harry’s funeral, “No one else has contributed more to this state over a life time.”
Lightsey is survived by his wife, Kathleen; four children, Harry McKinley Lightsey III, Wallace Kay Lightsey, Kathleen Elizabeth Lightsey Ortiz and Dr. Edgar Glenn Lightsey; and 10 grandchildren, Ellen Exia Lightsey, Harry McKinley Lightsey IV, Jacob Glenn Lightsey, David Ransom Ortiz, Emma Kay Lightsey, Daniel Martin Ortiz, Connor Glenn Lightsey, Sarah Morgan Ortiz, Suzanne Elizabeth Lightsey and Carolina Elizabeth Ortiz.