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Black History Month Spotlight: Tameaka A. Legette
In her almost two decades as a prosecutor, Tameaka A. Legette has been guided by a fundamental principle.
“Prosecutors face many difficult challenges, but the essence of our work is straightforward: Seek the truth, then do what is right,” Legette says in an open letter she recently wrote to her niece about her life and career as a lawyer.
Legette, who has served in the Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office for 18 years, is currently an assistant solicitor with the Career Criminal Unit. Born and raised in Marion, Legette explains that her upbringing and affinity for rural life helped her forge a connection with the communities the Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office serves.
“In my earliest years here, I was a prosecutor in Allendale and Hampton General Sessions Court and a juvenile prosecutor in those rural counties’ Family Courts. I then became the administrative solicitor for Allendale, where I earned in 2006, to what was the best of law enforcement’s historical knowledge, the first conviction on a murder charge in that county in 30 years,” she says.
Legette received the John R. Justice Community Leadership Award at the 2019 South Carolina Solicitor’s Association Annual Conference. This award is presented to an assistant solicitor who exhibits “exemplary citizenship and / or implementation of innovative solutions to advance public safety and improve the quality of the lives of the members of his or her community.”
She serves on the South Carolina Board of Law Examiners, is a previous SC Bar House of Delegates member and is active in giving back to her community including speaking at schools and churches and mentoring younger lawyers. She has taught courses on trial advocacy, sexual assault and domestic violence prosecution and other topics throughout the years.
Legette, who graduated from Marion High and Francis Marion University with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, said her goal was always to become a lawyer. She is the first lawyer on both sides of her family, and she explained that her J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law was the first advanced degree in her family for a time.
She recalls being inspired to become a lawyer at a young age by her father, whom she followed around everywhere. One afternoon, on a walk back from feeding the hogs, her father inspired the idea by admonishing her to become anything but a lawyer. He discouraged her because of his perceptions about lawyers. “In that moment, he called forth my identity.” His warning, serving as a beacon of the path she would later follow.
“He could never bend or break it out of me, despite his attempts and challenges,” she said. “And here I am. When I got to law school, it was the seeking the truth and doing what is right principle that guided me to become a prosecutor."
Legette wrote to her niece: “You see, my dad was raised by his grandfather and also grew up knowing his great-grandfather – a man who was born a slave but died free. Given his humble beginnings, my declaration that I would become a lawyer was as foreign to my father as life on Mars. He often challenged me, asking: ‘What’s plan B?’ My reply was always the same: ‘Plan B is law school. In fact, plan B, C, D, E, F, G, H - ijklmnopq, are all law school.’ When I became a lawyer in 2002, I think I might have helped our entire family reconsider what is possible for the progeny of these hard-working Legettes.”