The Honorable Ernest A. Finney, Jr. was born March 23, 1931, in Smithfield, Virginia, to parents Ernest A. Finney, Sr. and Colleen Finney. He received his B.A. degree from Claflin College in 1952 and his J.D. from South Carolina State College in 1954, where at the time, there were only five African- American lawyers in South Carolina.
In 1961, he opened the Ernest A. Finney, Jr. Law Office in Sumter, which later became known as Finney & Gray Law Office. He gained a reputation as an outstanding defense lawyer and civil rights advocate. In 1963, he was appointed chairman of the SC Advisory Commission on Civil Rights. In 1972, he was elected to the SC House of Representatives and served from 1973 until 1976. He was one of the first African Americans elected to the General Assembly since the 19th Century. In 1976, he began serving as a circuit court judge in South Carolina. He was elected as associate justice of the SC Supreme Court in 1985; and chief justice in 1994.
Known as “The Black Fox,” he was a member of the Conference of Chief Justices, American Law Institute, American Judges Association, SC State Elections Commission, American Bar Association, National Bar Association, SC Bar, Association of Trial Lawyers of America and numerous other organizations.
He was a member of Emmanuel United Methodist Church; served as chairman on the Board of Directors of Buena Vista Development Corporation, Board of Trustees at Claflin University and the SC Legislative Black Caucus.
He had many degrees to include an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Claflin University and Johnson C. Smith University; Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Coastal Carolina College, Morris College and The Citadel; and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Charleston and SC State University.
The Honorable Ernest A. Finney, Jr. died on December 3, 2017. He is survived by his wife, Frances Davenport Finney; his children, Ernest A. Finney, III (Tammy Harper), Lynn C.N. Finney (Tonia Poteat) and Jerry L. Finney (Elaine Gilliam); five grandchildren, Amanda Catherine Finney, Felicia Victoria Finney, Jerry L. Finney, Jr., Colleen Teresa Finney and Daniel Matthew Finney; and his stepmother, Geneva B. Finney.