Judge Gwendlyne Young Smalls was born on November 19, 1962, in Greer, South Carolina to Andy and Velma Burnett Young. She grew up in Duncan, South Carolina and graduated from James F. Byrnes High School in 1980. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of South Carolina in 1984 and her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1989.
Upon graduation from Law School, Judge Smalls worked as an Assistant Public Defender at the Richland County Public Defender’s Office from 1989 until 1995. While there, she served as Interim Chief Public Defender and supervised the juvenile division of the Office.
After her service as an Assistant Public Defender, Judge Smalls opened a private practice with offices in Columbia, Winnsboro and, subsequently, Duncan, South Carolina. Her primary areas of practice were family and criminal law and she represented clients in a number of matters, including divorce, child custody, abuse and neglect, adoption and a broad range of criminal matters. Judge Smalls received a Kellogg grant with the Department of Social Services pursuant to which she managed the representation of the Agency in the termination of parental rights for five counties. Judge Smalls continued her private practice for 14 years until her election to the Richland County Family Court on February 3, 2010.
Judge Smalls is admitted to practice in state and federal court in South Carolina and in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. She has also been an active member of the community, having served on the Boards of Directors of the South Carolina Community Bank, South Carolina Legal Services, and the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance. She is a member of the South Carolina Bar, Richland County Bar Association, South Carolina Women Lawyers Association, and South Carolina Black Lawyers Association.
An active member of Francis Burns United Methodist Church, she has served on the Trustee Board, Pastor Parish Relations Board, Lay Visitation Team, and choir. Judge Smalls is a member of Jack and Jill of America and a life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. She enjoys community service work and enriching the lives of youth.
She has two children: a daughter, Taylor Alexandria and a son, Justice Harrison. In her spare time, Judge Smalls enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cooking and shopping.