Growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, Jasmine Twitty knew she wanted to serve her communities. While in elementary school, she was in girl scouts and church youth groups, where she learned the trailblazing work of influential figures including presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm.
“These are people in power, and they have the influence to shape society and the laws that govern our everyday lives. I want to do that!” she told herself. But she didn’t set her mind towards becoming a judge until after college.
Following years of work in bond court, she took measures towards pursuing judgeship. After a lot of hard work and determination, Twitty, in 2015, became the youngest judge to ever be appointed or elected in the United States when she was sworn in as an Associate Judge of the municipal court for the city of Easley, SC at the age of 25.
“The day I was sworn in felt surreal,” she said in an interview in 2016. “My job is to oversee the initial proceeding in a criminal case. As a judge, I must remain impartial, not get emotionally involved. I had to learn that early on, working in night court, seeing what things people are capable of.”
Indeed, being an African-American judge for the municipal court in Easley, South Carolina—a predominately white town— meant Twitty had a lot to deal with. But that was nothing new to a trailblazer like her, who had gained a wide range of experiences working long hours as a night clerk for a bond court.
Born on December 4, 1989, in Greenville, South Carolina, Twitty attended St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School and graduated from J. L. Mann High School in Easley in 2007. She described her childhood as “one of those super-smart little kids who might be called “mouthy.” Her parents, however, appreciated her vocabulary, she said, and with her mother being a dedicated social worker, she was raised to be of service to her communities.
After graduating from the College of Charleston in 2010, with her BA in Political Science, she knew she was ready to work in public service. Twitty then applied for a clerk position at the Greenville County Bond Court. “My job was to coordinate bond hearings and deal with paperwork. The hours were long, but I was excited. I was the youngest person there and asked 1001 questions a day,” she said.
Being a night court clerk for almost five years, Twitty learned more about judgeship, and soon, she realized she could go for it. Twitty wasn’t required to attend law school because, in South Carolina, summary court judges are appointed and don’t need a law degree. The city council is the governing body that appoints judges for the municipal court. Consulting her family and mentors, Twitty began steps towards pursuing this career. She completed a training program and passed a certification examination before entering the interviewing process.
In August 2015, she became America’s youngest judge. Four years later, she was appointed as a municipal judge and lead judicial officer for the City of Travelers Rest, SC.
Twitty, now 31, explained to Forbes this October how she improves her work-life balance. “My mental clarity comes from diet and exercise, and from truly unplugging when I’m off work. That can come from travel or food experiences, or even just silencing my phones when I’m at home. I’m also particular about the spaces I put myself in and the people I surround myself with.”
Twitty, as a Board Member of Upstate Network and co-founder of her local chapter of LeadHER, has been empowering women in career development. With several recognitions including being named South Carolina Top 20 Under 40, Honorary Georgia Citizen, and Talented Tenth Top 10 Young Professional, Twitty has advised women pursuing their dreams to be true to themselves. She urges them not to compromise anything for the sake of an opportunity, “because you’ll pay for it later.”