A former Spartanburg circuit judge and state legislator who spent time in prison for his role in a 1990 corruption scandal has died.
James “Tee” Ferguson, 60, passed away Sunday from natural causes, his daughter told the Associated Press.
A Tennessean by birth, he graduated from Wofford College and the University of South Carolina law school. He was known as a civil rights advocate before winning House District 31 in 1982. He served in the legislature for seven years before leaving to become a state judge in 1990
Later that year, he was back in the headlines as the FBI acted on its corruption sting known as “Operation Lost Trust,” which eventually netted more than two dozen lawmakers. Investigators accused Ferguson of taking a $3,000 bribe from an undercover informant in exchange for his vote on gambling legislation. He resigned his bench seat and was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion. At the time, he claimed it was a racist ploy to keep a black judge off the bench. He also pleaded no contest to cocaine-related charges and would serve two years in prison.
He unsuccessfully ran as a third-party candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002, but was defeated by then-Rep. Lindsey Graham. Ferguson headed up the African American Policy Council for a few years before his death.