I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 KJV
The Honorable Judge Levone Graves was and will forever be a pillar of his community that touched the lives of many and inspired all he met. He was one person who you could always expect to greet you with a smile, a funny phrase, and he would help you with any problem you had. “Bruh”, as he was affectionately called by many, believed in creating a community that welcomed all people through love, compassion, equity, and servitude. Graves was born in Marion County on August 14, 1946. He was preceded in death by his parents (Mr. Lawrence Graves and Mrs. Leona Gerald Graves) and by three siblings (Walter James Graves, Shelby Peterson, and Lawrence Graves). Graves attended Marion County Schools and graduated from Palmetto High School in 1964. He joined the United States Air Force in 1967 and was honorably discharged in 1971 with the rank of Sergeant.
Levone worked as a carrier for the United Postal Service in New York after his time in the Air Force. He also moonlighted as a Radio Disc Jockey enhancing his love for music and making people happy. He gained a wealth of experience about how people should be treated from his military service, UPS experience, and DJing work. His life experiences molded and inspired him to return home to South Carolina and enroll at Francis Marion University when it was known as an extension of the University of South Carolina in 1973. He graduated and received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. During his time at Francis Marion, he was instrumental in student affairs and held the position of president for the Young Democrats of Francis Marion organization. He later attended the University of South Carolina where he gained a Master’s degree in Education.
Graves was appointed as a full time Magistrate Judge in 1990. He served as Marion Co-Magistrate and Municipal Court Judge for the City of Mullins, SC for more than 18 years. He worked tirelessly to make sure his impact was made through fairness and equality. He would help those who were normally turned away from assistance to maintain the integrity of the law and of his community. Many may remember him as a man who would help without the expectation of a reward. He treated everyone around him with respect no matter their demographics. Graves even fought for the rights of his fellow judges. He was unanimously elected as the first African American President of the South Carolina Summary Court Judges Association. Also, he was instrumental in getting legislation passed that increased the salaries of Magistrates statewide.
Judge Graves carried the idea of equity and social justice with him outside of the courtroom as well. He knew that his community needed more people who would stand up and not shy away from social injustice. This led to him being elected as the first President of the Marion County NAACP. He aided in the creation of an organization that fought for those who had no voice. That honor along with numerous other honorable mentions and accolades only hint at the character of Judge Levone Graves. He was a father, brother, confidant, hero, and friend for many and from him they have all witnessed how courageous, bold, loving, and kind he could be.
Levone joined the Saint Paul Baptist Church where he served as a member of the Trustee Board and as its chairman for a period of time.
Judge Levone Graves leaves a host of beloved family members to mourn his passing: his wife, Jaqueline Hughes Graves; his children: Shantel Graves Speed and Ashley Hughes (James Bellamy); his grandchildren: Levone Lawrence Hughes, Jaqueline Gladys Bellamy, Robert Eardis, Jonte Lavone, Jasmine Jade, Deja Jashawn; his siblings: Donella (Hoyett) Simon, Ernestine Woodard, Yvonne (George) Davis, and Jessie Graves; and a brother-in-law: Thomas Hughes; five sisters-in-law: Ann Hughes, Linda Neal, Monica Hughes, LaVerne Graves; and two special nieces: Kendal Hughes and Zuri Hughes.
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