Why the Murdaughs are often referred to as a prominent South Carolina family

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:53 PM EDT
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HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - A small rural South Carolina town known locally for its watermelon festival is now known nationally as the site of a mysterious double murder.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, a mother, and son, were found dead on June 7. Official reports say they died from “multiple gunshot wounds.” The news of their deaths stunned members of the South Carolina legal community who have known the family name for generations.

But how did that name become so well known in the Hampton community?

According to the Murdaugh family law firm’s website, it started in 1910.

That year Randolph Murdaugh started the firm that would later become PMPED, a prominent firm.

Ten years later he was elected solicitor serving as the top prosecutor for the region.

In 1940 his son Randolph Murdaugh Junior was elected solicitor. 46 years later, Randolph III took over that same position.

All the while the family firm was going strong.

“I’m all over the state all the time,” said PMPED lawyer Lee Cope in a 2010 interview with SCETV. “And working with the folks that I’ve been able to work with and the history that Randolph and his family brings to it. You run into an older lawyer anywhere in the state and they find out where you are from and they instantly know something and everybody has a story to tell about a Buster or Randolph.”

According to their site, a frequent target of their lawsuits is a Richland-based railroad transportation company with operations in South Carolina, CSX.

The site says the company has quote, “a nationwide reputation for successfully representing railroad employees and others who have been injured or lost a loved one as a result of the negligence of railroad companies”

A local South Carolina paper once referred to this firm as, “this railroad company’s biggest nightmare.”

Under an old state statute, a lawsuit against a foreign company could be brought in any South Carolina county where the company does business.

Therefore, PMPED was able to bring a suit against this and other companies in a part of the state where their lawyers were well known to potential jurors.

That law was changed in 2005 in a larger reform bill.

According to PMPED’s website, the verdicts for these CSX suits and others were sometimes in the millions.

“It’s pretty amazing when you think,” said PMPED lawyer John E. Parker in an interview with SCETV. “We’ve recently had cases pretty much all over the southeast. And the reason for that is in certain areas we’ve developed expertise and we’d like to think we are fairly good at it and as a result of that we have lawyers calling us and referring cases to us from other areas.”

While no longer solicitors, the Murdaughs are still influential in the area.

In 2018 Randolph Murdaugh III was given the state’s highest civilian award - the Order of the Palmetto.

Murdaugh’s son Randy, who works at PMPED, has successfully represented “hundreds of injured railroad workers” according to the website.

And Alex Murdaugh used to work with the firm and was formerly a part-time prosecutor in the solicitor’s office his dad used to run.

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