Judge Nichols-Graham is a native of Mullins, South Carolina. She graduated from Mullins High School with honors; from Winthrop University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science; and, from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University with a Master of Science in Public Policy. Judge Nichols-Graham returned to South Carolina and earned a Juris Doctor from The University of South Carolina School of Law. Judge Nichols-Graham demonstrated an interest in children’s law by interning, clerking or volunteering at the domestic violence shelter in Rock Hill, South Carolina, at the Education Law Center of New Jersey, at the Richland County CASA Office, at the SC Department of Education and the SC Association of School Administrators before seeking a position at a legal services program that would allow her to represent students and families in matters related to public school.
The Legal Services Agency of Western Carolina, Inc., gave Judge Nichols-Graham the opportunity to develop a children’s law program that included education law. Judge Nichols-Graham worked as a staff attorney, a children’s law attorney, the education unit head, a supervising attorney for the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, and as a managing attorney of a large office at South Carolina Legal Services. She worked with SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center to create an education task force that later became a unit at legal services. Judge Nichols-Graham primarily practiced family and education law but she also practiced housing, consumer, social security, and in a few other areas of law to assist with stabilizing families.
As a young lawyer, Judge Nichols-Graham developed a children’s law program that included monitoring the firm’s termination of parental rights and adoption cases and assisting attorneys in ways to efficiently and effectively resolve those cases across several counties in the upstate. She coordinated a program focused on explaining legal rights and responsibilities to parents while their children participated in a Saturday Success Program at the Center for Educational Equity. Judge Nichols-Graham volunteered with the School Carolina Bar’s children law committee and the SC Black Lawyers Association. By 2001 she had worked successfully to add education law to the areas of practice for all legal services programs in South Carolina. She served on the board of SC Protection and Advocacy, on the SC Supreme Court Commission of Continuing Legal Education and Specialization and on the SC Children Justice Act Task Force. She provided numerous legal education sessions to the Bar and the public.
The South Carolina Bar awarded Judge Nichols-Graham with the Young Lawyer of the Year Award for 2001-2002. The SC Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission and the SC Bar Foundation awarded Judge Nichols-Graham the 2014 Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year. In 2019 the Greenville Business Magazine included Judge Nichols-Graham as one of the Legal Elite of the Upstate.
Judge Nichols-Graham is the daughter of Deacon John L. Nichols and Reverend Bettie Nichols of Mullins, South Carolina. She is married to Hakim Graham and they have a daughter. She has one sibling, Sheila Arrington, RPh. Judge Nichols-Graham is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc. She enjoys art, genealogy, exploring the history of South Carolina and spending time with her family.
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