Judge J. Derham Cole was born in Spartanburg County South Carolina on May 27, 1952 to Claude and Esther Lewis Cole. His father was born and reared in Spartanburg County while his mother was born and reared in the town of Mullins located in Marion County, South Carolina.
Judge Cole was educated in the Spartanburg County public school system graduating from Spartanburg High School in 1970. Upon his graduation from high school he attended the Citadel before transferring as a sophomore to the University of South Carolina, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government and Public Administration in 1974. In 1976 he was awarded a Juris Doctor Degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law and was admitted to the practice of law in South Carolina in May of 1977.
Upon his admission to the practice of law, Judge Cole was appointed as an assistant circuit solicitor for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of South Carolina, where he served as a prosecuting attorney . Following an unsuccessful campaign for Circuit Solicitor of the Seventh Judicial Circuit he entered the private general practice of law in 1985 in a partnership with former Circuit Solicitor Claude A. Taylor, Jr. He has been a member of the Spartanburg County Bar Association, the South Carolina Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He has been admitted to practice law in all courts in the State of South Carolina and the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.
In 1987 Judge Cole was elected to the South Carolina General Assembly representing Spartanburg County House District #32 in the South Carolina House of Representatives. As a state legislator he served as a member of the South Carolina House Judiciary Committee and on its Criminal Laws subcommittee. He also served as a member of and Vice Chairman of the Internal Security Committee. While a member of the General Assembly he served as Chairman of the Spartanburg County House Delegation and as Vice Chairman of the Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation. He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by South Carolina Governor Carroll A. Campbell.
On February 5, 1992 Judge Cole was elected as Resident Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit of South Carolina where he has served continuously since his qualification. While a circuit court judge he has attended the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada where he completed the General Jurisdiction course of study. He serves by appointment on the Judicial Conduct Commission.
Judge Cole resides in Spartanburg with his wife, the former Candace Carlson, and their three children, J. Derham Cole, Jr., Jonathan T. Cole and A. Carlson Cole. They are members of Saint John's Lutheran Church.