Judge Joseph W. McGowan, III was born in 1952 in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the son of the late Joseph W. McGowan, Jr. and the late Virginia Mims McGowan. He is married to Eleanor H. (Suzie) McGowan. He has two sons, Joseph W. McGowan, IV and Marshall West McGowan.
Judge McGowan attended public schools in Charleston, South Carolina and graduated from St. Andrew's High School in 1970. He received a bachelor of science degree from Newberry College in 1974. Subsequently Judge McGowan obtained his juris doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in December, 1978.
Upon graduating from law school, he entered private practice in Laurens, South Carolina with the late Marshall West Abercrombie,forming the firm of Abercrombie and McGowan.
Judge McGowan also served as Commissioner of Public Works for Laurens, South Carolina.
On February 10, 1999, he was elected to the position of Judge of The Family Court, Eighth Judicial Circuit, Seat 1. He has served continuously since.