The Honorable Jasper Cureton served as an Associate Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, having been elected the first African-American appellate judge in South Carolina since reconstruction. Born to a poor farm family in Oconee County, South Carolina, he is the son of the late Jasper and Corrine Cureton. A graduate of Blue Ridge High School, South Carolina State College, and The University of South Carolina, Cureton was the first African-American to graduate from the University of South Carolina’s Law School since reconstruction, and the first African-American Master-In-Equity in South Carolina since reconstruction.
As a youth, Cureton never dreamed that he would make legal history. Cureton worked his way through South Carolina State College delivering milk. After graduation from South Carolina State, Cureton had intended to attend Tuskegee Institute’s Veterinary Medicine School, but that dream was unfulfilled for the lack of funds and he ended up in New York City as a Social Investigator for the City’s Department of Welfare. It was in that position that Cureton realized for the first time the dismal world in which so many lived. While in that position, his military deferment was terminated and he was called to active duty. After serving two years in the Army and obtaining the rank of first lieutenant, Cureton returned home, taught school for a year, and then entered law school.
After graduation from law school, Cureton worked for a year with the Richland County Legal Aid Service Agency, and then entered private practice. In 1976, upon the advice of the South Carolina Senate, Cureton was appointed Master-In-Equity for Richland County. He later became a family court judge and, in 1983, was elected a member of the newly formed South Carolina Court of Appeals.
Because of a religious and a poor upbringing, Cureton has always been keenly aware of the needs of those less fortunate in our communities. Such awareness has motivated him to give his time generously as a volunteer. He has served in leadership positions in many Midlands organizations including United Way of the Midlands, the Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers of Columbia, The Family Service Center, The Nurturing Center, March of Dimes, Legal Services Corporation, Columbia Area Mental Health Center, and the Columbia Community Relations Council. He is a member of Zion Baptist Church and has served as chairman of its Trustee Board for many years. He has received numerous awards and recognitions including listing in the 1972 edition of Outstanding Young Men of America, Presidential Certificate of Appreciation for his work in the Selective Service System, Legion of Merit from United States Army, Presidential Citation from the National Association for Equal Opportunities in Higher Education, and induction into the South Carolina State University ROTC hall of Fame. Cureton is married to the former Jean Burkins and has two children. Upon his retirement after 27 years on the bench, Cureton’s only hope is that he leaves a legacy of competence, diligence, and fairness in his dispensation of justice, and that his community activities helped to lift the burden of the less fortunate.