Ferguson, 60, died Friday in Virginia of natural causes, his daughter, Stinson Ferguson, said. She declined to give further details.
Ferguson was born in Kingsport, Tenn., and graduated from Wofford College and the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Ferguson was elected to the state House in 1982, served there for seven years, and then moved to the bench in 1990.
That same year, he was one of 28 people caught up in the FBI’s Statehouse sting operation. He was accused of taking $3,000 from an FBI informant in 1989 in exchange for his vote on betting legislation.
He was convicted in June 1991 on two extortion counts and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and pleaded guilty to cocaine possession. He served more than two years in prison.
After completing his sentence, Ferguson returned to Spartanburg and started working on problems in the black community. He tried unsuccessfully to start a minority-owned bank by raising money mostly from black investors.
He ran in 2004 for the U.S. Senate seat won by Republican Jim DeMint as a member of the United Citizens Party. He said his goal was to help empower minority neighborhoods financially.