Judge Thomas W. Cooper, Jr. was born in Sumter, South Carolina, in 1941 to the late Thomas W. Cooper, an electrician and automotive mechanic and the late Elizabeth Jeter Cooper, post mistress of the Town of Mayesville, South Carolina.
He grew up in Mayesville, a small farming community in eastern Sumter county. He completed high school in 1959 and entered the freshmen class at USC that fall. At the end of the fall semester of his sophomore year, illness interrupted his college education (he was sick of school). In January of 1961, he took a job in a furniture factory in Sumter and worked diligently at that job until August of that year during which time his salary rose meteorically from $1.00 to $1.03 per hour (as a result of a minimum wage increase). He left that job in August of 1961 with callouses on both hands and with an enhanced appreciation of the value of a college education. He graduated from USC in May of 1963 with a B.A. degree in history.
He took a job as a English teacher in the public schools of Clarendon county. He worked there until 1968 when he was engaged to marry Margaret Barringer Bland. He left classroom teaching and took a job in school administration in the public schools of Sumter county. After two years in school administration, he entered the USC School of Law in the fall of 1970. He commuted to law school while his wife worked as a teacher in the public schools of Sumter county.
Following his graduation from law school in 1973, he joined Billy Coffey in the practice of law in Manning, South Carolina. In 1974 he was made a partner in the firm which eventually expanded to Coffey, Cooper, Chandler & DuRant with offices in Manning and Surfside Beach. He remained as a partner with the firm until his election to the Bench.
He was elected as Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit in February of 1992 and served in that capacity until his retirement in September of 2006. As a Circuit Judge, he served on the Advisory Committee, Ad Hoc Rules Committee, and Commission on Judicial Conduct. In retirement, he continues to remain active, part-time, by holding court one week per month. Judge Cooper has been active in church work as a member of the Presbyterian Church since his youth. He grew up in the Presbyterian Church of Mayesville. In the Presbyterian Church at Manning, he has served as Clerk of the Session, member of the choir and a teacher of an adult Sunday school class there.
He is an avid but inept golfer and bird hunter, an obedient husband, a proud father, and a mesmerized grandfather. Margaret is an accomplished grandmother and gardener and is actively involved in church and volunteer work. His son Bland is married to the former Liza Langston of Charlotte. Bland is an Agronomist for Competitions of the PGA Tour. He and Liza reside in Sumter with their three sons: Langston, William, and Sumter. They attend The First Presbyterian Church in Sumter. His daughter Judy is married to Bert G. (Skip) Utsey III, an attorney and law partner at Clawson, Fargnoli, and Utsey, LLC. Judy is a graduate of USC (Bachelor’s Degree) and Winthrop (Master’s). Judy and Skip reside in Charleston with their son Thomas and daughter Margaret Elizabeth (Maggie). Judy is an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Manning.