For Paul R. Thurmond it is not a matter of having new worlds to conquer.
At age 41, the Charleston attorney already has enjoyed a career of notable challenge and achievement, having served as an assistant solicitor in the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, on the Charleston County Council, and in the South Carolina State Senate (2012 – 2015).
Thurmond, the youngest child of Palmetto State legend Strom Thurmond, is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of South Carolina School of Law. In 2005, he established his own firm, Thurmond, Kirchner & Timbes. His area of practice is criminal defense.
Today, his principal goals are close to home, with a focus on family. Thurmond is savoring the gift of time with his wife, Katie, and their five children.
We caught up with him in the midst of a still-busy schedule.
Was your desire to spend more time with your family the principal reason you retired from the State Senate?
I entered the Senate with three children. By the time I left I had five. My wife had made significant sacrifices from her own career and I wanted to make the same sacrifice for her and for the benefit of my children. I have enjoyed watching them grow and being able to influence them in their decisionmaking and in their view of the world.
Is balancing a law practice with family and civic responsibilities demanding?
It is always a challenge to balance all of my obligations. I think my primary responsibility is providing for my family, and by practicing law I am able to do just that. I have greatly reduced my civic responsibilities in order to find a good balance.
To what extent will you miss the deliberations, the give-and-take of politics?
I absolutely love the challenge of political issues. There are so many moving parts and factions to be considered when trying to make law. It is an amazing process, almost like a huge chess game. I miss the camaraderie that these issues create among the members of the body and the intellectual challenge of these issues. You are literally dealing with others’ philosophy of life and government so you know them on a very deep level.
What is your firm’s connection to the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)?
Our law firm has had a relationship with the FOP and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) for quite some time. I love supporting both groups in every way possible. We are on an approved list to help officers when they need assistance. We also support these groups with monetary donations.
Do you have a particular concern regarding post-traumatic stress disorder among police officers and first responders?
I reintroduced a bill in 2015 that would have allowed public safety officials to qualify for workers’ compensation when suffering from PTSD. This bill was very near and dear to my heart. With this legislation we were able to get our foot in the door. It was not a total win but the legislation allowed half a million dollars to assist officers and first responders in need. That money is now available to make sure they get proper treatment. I hope remaining legislators will continue the work both Rep. Tommy Pope and I started with this bill.
In 2015, you became one of the first lawmakers to call for removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. Many would consider this an act of moral courage. Do you?
As a Republican politician there was a certain risk associated with taking my stance. But I told my colleagues that the “time is right” to remove the symbolic flag from above the statehouse. Our ancestors were literally fighting to continue to keep human beings as slaves and continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of that heritage. But I am very proud to be a part of that change.
If we may ask, what does bearing the name “Thurmond” mean to you? Is there a special sense of responsibility attached? A family legacy to which you feel you contributed?
Growing up with a father deeply committed to public office, I too found my calling in serving people as both an attorney and public official. An appreciation for politics and the law and a dedication to helping others was instilled in me at a very young age by my father. He served as my inspiration and role model for becoming a lawyer and encouraged me to take my love for the law and desire to help people to the next level by running for public office. But I have always wanted to create my own legacy. I was very fortunate to grow up with a father that gave so much of his time helping people and with a mother that sacrificed so much so that my father could succeed. I am very cognizant of the legacy he created, and I hope I will continue that legacy but also make my own impact on my family and my community.
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