Legal trailblazer, S.C. leader Ruth Cupp dies

File/Wade Spees/Staff

Ruth Williams Cupp, the first woman admitted to the Charleston County Bar Association, former associate probate judge, former state representative, civic leader, author and Post and Courier columnist, died Saturday. She was 87.

“As the first female member of the Charleston County Bar, Ruth became a most effective trailblazer, in part because she didn’t portray herself as one,” said Brian Duffy, president of the association. “Not only did she embody the history of our bar, Ruth wrote the history of our bar.”

Cupp was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on Dec. 16, 1928, the daughter of Eva Lou and Ollie Williams.

In 1941, the family moved to North Charleston, a city that Cupp would later passionately write about in her weekly Post and Courier column.

Cupp earned her law degree from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1954 and became the Charleston County Bar’s first female lawyer that same year.

Cupp had a law career that spanned 61 years, working in many high-profile roles. According to her obituary, she served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1962 to 1964 and was Associate Judge of Probate from 1990 to 1994.

In 2015, the Charleston County Bar honored Cupp with the James Louis Petigru Award, the organization’s highest honor.

Cupp is also author of three books, “Portia Steps up to the Bar,” “Attorneys from Charles Town to Charleston” and “Miracles on St. Margaret Street,” which chronicles the history of the Florence Crittenton Programs of S.C., an organization Cupp was actively involved in.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Claude Cupp; brother, Ray Williams; and a sister, Eddie Lou Garvin. She is survived by her sister Patsy Mizell and several nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Friday at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. Arrangements are being handled by Fielding Home for Funerals.