Eleventh Circuit Deputy Solicitor Rhonda Wallace Patterson received the 2023 Ernest F. Hollings Award for Excellence in State Prosecution for General Sessions last week at the South Carolina Solicitors’ Association Annual Conference.
The award has been given to the top prosecutor in the State of South Carolina since 1997. The Hollings Award historically has been awarded to solicitors across the State who have been outstanding in carrying out what justice requires while upholding the position with integrity.
Patterson’s is the first recipient of the Award in General Sessions who is a woman nominated from the Lexington County Solicitor’s Office and she is the first winner in South Carolina who is a Black Woman.
Solicitor Rick Hubbard nominated Patterson for the honor.
“Rhonda is the epitome of a career prosecutor. She is dedicated to the administration of justice. Her genuine demeanor and caring personality endear her to those with whom she works, and, in many instances, those who stand on the opposite side of the aisle in a courtroom. However, her determination in obtaining justice for victims makes her a formidable advocate in the courtroom. She is the consummate professional, and always exhibits the highest standards of ethical behavior.”
He also said, “Rhonda is most deserving of this prestigious Award,” and she, “is the standard bearer for what all prosecutors should be.”
Patterson was born and raised in Gaffney where she was graduated from Gaffney High School in 1991. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from South Carolina State University in 1995, where she was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She then attended North Carolina Central University where she obtained her law degree in 1998 and became a member of the South Carolina Bar that same year.
Patterson began her legal career as an Assistant Solicitor in the Sixth Judicial Circuit until 2003 when she left to work for the South Carolina Prosecution Commission. Since 2005, she has worked in the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office primarily in Lexington County. Patterson began prosecuting domestic violence and child abuse cases. Later she became an “Abuse in Later Life” trainer and concentrated on prosecuting elder and vulnerable adult abuse cases. In 2017, she acquired a violent crimes docket and began prosecuting homicide cases. Patterson has successfully tried thirteen homicide cases including two unrelated murder cases within a three-week period. She has also successfully taken to trial multiple criminal sexual conduct cases and other offenses.
In addition to her time in the courtroom, Patterson serves the Eleventh Circuit as a supervisor for the staff, and works with the Lexington County Human Resources Department on employment issues. Despite how busy the courtroom keeps her, she always makes time for staff and mentors other attorneys in the office. She is often described as a joy to work with.
Deputy Solicitor Patterson also enjoys working with local law enforcement officers and is always on call for them. In his nomination letter for this Award, Sheriff Jay Koon of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said, “Rhonda has always availed herself to my office, whether in preparation of an upcoming trial, fielding calls to offer legal insight, or volunteering to instruct classes for law enforcement agencies. She exhibits a professional demeanor, whether inside the courtroom or within an office environment.”
Sheriff Koon regards Patterson as “one of the brightest and most dedicated violent crimes prosecutors” and further remarked that her “presence and years of successful prosecutorial experience have earned her respect from the entire law enforcement community, and especially within my Department.”
In his nomination letter, Chief Terrence Green of the Lexington Police Department highlighted Patterson’s determination and hard work. While remarking about one particular murder case, Chief Green commented that she “showed a dedication to and empathy for the citizens of Lexington that truly defines the role of a public servant.”
Patterson is a past recipient of the John R. Justice Community Leadership Award, as well as a speaker for the South Carolina Bar Essentials training for new attorneys. She is a member of the Upsilon Omega Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., in Irmo, where she serves as the Parliamentarian. Patterson is married to Vincent Patterson and they are parents of two children, Jordan and Gabrielle. The Pattersons are active members at First Nazareth Baptist Church in Columbia, where she serves on the Legal Assistance and Policy and Procedure Committees.
In the photo: Deputy Solicitor Patterson with her husband and her daughter, as well as US Attorney Adair Boroughs, and Solicitor Rick Hubbard.