Claude Scarborough, longtime member of South Carolina's largest law firm, dies at 82

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COLUMBIA — Claude Scarborough, a longtime partner in South Carolina’s largest law firm, died Saturday at his Columbia home, firm officials said Monday. He was 82.

Diagnosed with congestive heart failure, Scarborough had been hospitalized recently for an infection and was being treated with oxygen, according to Columbia lawyer Steve Morrison. It was thought that Scarborough had recovered, but the veteran trial lawyer died in his sleep during an afternoon nap, Morrison said.

After several years of service with the Army, Scarborough joined the firm that came to be known as Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in 1955, serving as its managing partner for more than three decades. At that time, the Columbia-based firm had six attorneys; now, it boasts more than 400 across the eastern U.S.

“Claude was a great trial lawyer,” said Morrison, who practiced alongside Scarborough for nearly four decades. “If it was a significant company-threatening matter, he was the man to go to.”

Scarborough represented aviation companies, taking on bigger and bigger clients and developing a specialty in that area. Outside the courtroom, he took the initiative to integrate the South Carolina Bar when he led that group in the 1970s, Morrison said.

“He could see what needed to be done and had the capacity to execute it,” he said.

Scarborough earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Carolina and served as a trustee for organizations including the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina Philharmonic and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. In the 1980s, he was chairman of the South Carolina Research Authority, an organization created by state lawmakers to foster university-based research and promote high-tech industry in the state.

Scarborough is survived by his wife and four children. Services are scheduled for Wednesday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia.


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