James E. Smith Jr.

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James E. Smith Jr.
Smith Headshot (cropped).jpg
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 72nd district
In office
June 20, 1996 – January 9, 2019
Preceded byTimothy Folk Rogers
Succeeded bySeth Rose
Personal details
James Emerson Smith Jr.

(1967-09-09) September 9, 1967 (age 51)
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Mary Kirkland (m. 1991)
EducationUniversity of South Carolina,
(BA, JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1996–1998 (reserve)
1998–present (national guard)
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Major
UnitUnited States Army Reserve
South Carolina Army National Guard
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan
AwardsBronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart

James Emerson Smith Jr. (born September 9, 1967) is an American politician who served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1996 to 2019. Smith is also a combat veteran and a serving officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard, a small business owner, and a practicing attorney in Columbia, South Carolina.

Smith endorsed Joe Biden in the 2008 United States presidential election. He was the Democratic nominee for Governor of South Carolina in 2018, but was defeated by incumbent Republican Governor Henry McMaster.

Early life and education[edit]

Smith was born on September 9, 1967 in Columbia, South Carolina, the son of James E. Smith Sr and Nina Smith. Smith can trace military service in his family in every generation back to the American Revolutionary War.[1] He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of South Carolina in 1990, and with a Juris Doctor degree from their School of Law in 1995.[2] Smith was then admitted to the South Carolina and North Carolina bars.[3]

Political career[edit]

Smith was first elected to represent the 72nd district (part of Richland County) in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996.[2] Smith is considered an ally of former Vice President Joe Biden and endorsed him in the 2008 United States presidential election.[4] Smith was a favorite to run for Governor of South Carolina in 2010, before Vincent Sheheen entered. Sheheen subsequently lost to Republican Nikki Haley.[4]

2018 gubernatorial campaign[edit]

In August 2017, Smith announced that he was taking steps towards a possible run for Governor of South Carolina in 2018. Political scientist Danielle Vinson said of the potential candidacy, "He’s a viable alternative. He is someone who disaffected Republicans who have had problems with issues of the last few weeks could turn to. He could tap a protest vote for Trump or Republicans in general."[5] Smith was reportedly urged to run for Governor by Joe Biden in April and then again in September.[6] He appeared at the Chapin Labor Day Parade in early September, further stoking speculation that he would run for Governor.[7]

Smith announced his candidacy on October 5, 2017, becoming the first Democrat in a race that already had four Republican candidates. In an interview shortly after Smith announced his candidacy, Biden spoke of Smith, saying "...this is a guy, I swear to God, that I would trust with anything. This is a guy who I watched, he never puts himself before anybody else." He described Smith and his late son Beau Biden as "kindred spirits".[6] He was joined on the ticket by Lieutenant Governor nominee Mandy Powers Norrell.

On November 6, 2018, Smith was defeated by incumbent Governor Henry McMaster. Smith held 46% of the popular vote to McMaster's 54%.

Military service[edit]

Smith joined the United States Army Reserve in January 1996 as a Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG) officer, transferring to the South Carolina Army National Guard in the same role in August 1998. In 2001, following the September 11 attacks, Smith resigned his commission and enlisted as an infantryman, beginning basic training.[2] In February 2007, Smith deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry officer, part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He served as a combat advisor to Afghan National Security Forces in remote areas of southern Afghanistan. During his 12 month tour, he received the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Purple Heart. He remains a member of the South Carolina Army National Guard, at the rank of Major.[1]

Legal career[edit]

Smith founded his law firm, James E. Smith, Jr., P.A. in 1995. It provides representation to people in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. The firm provides legal help to injured people, including members of the military, as well as class action lawsuits and business law and litigation services.[8]

Election History[edit]

South Carolina Gubernatorial Election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster 915,984 54
Democratic James E. Smith Jr. 780,756 46

Personal life[edit]

Smith married Mary Kirkland Thomas on February 9, 1991. They have four children: James Emerson III, Thomas Bridges, Paul Bradford, and Shannon Elizabeth. Smith is also a member of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and Church of the Apostles.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Meet James". James Smith. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Representative James E. Smith, Jr". South Carolina State House. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  3. ^ "James Smith". James E. Smith, Jr., P.A. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Shain, Andy (October 5, 2017). "Rep. James Smith becomes first Democrat to enter 2018 South Carolina governor's race". The Post and Courier. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  5. ^ "Rep. James Smith taking steps to give the 2018 South Carolina governor's race its first Democrat". The Post and Courier. August 20, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Shain, Andy (October 8, 2017). "Joe Biden on why he's involved in S.C.'s governor's race, Trump's global problems, Thurmond's take on D.C. today". The Post and Courier. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  7. ^ Wilks, Avery G. (September 4, 2017). "Smith running for SC governor? Chapin parade appearance stokes speculation". The State. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  8. ^ "Firm Overview". James E. Smith, Jr., P.A. Retrieved October 9, 2017.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Vincent Sheheen
Democratic nominee for Governor of South Carolina
Most recent