Judge Irving was born on July 12, 1946, in Greenwood, Leflore County, Mississippi. However, he grew up on a plantation in southern Leflore County. From a small boy, he worked in the fields plowing, chopping and picking cotton until 1964, when he graduated first in his class, of more than a hundred, from Amanda Elzy High School.
In 1968, he graduated from Jackson State College and taught for four years in the public schools of the Mississippi Delta before going to law school. In 1974, he graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law. In 1975, he became the first African-American attorney to clerk for the Mississippi Supreme Court when he was hired as a law clerk to the late Chief Justice Robert G. Gillespie.
In 1976, he served as an Earl Warren Fellow intern with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York, New York. In 1978, he became the first African-American to serve as an assistant United States Attorney in Mississippi since reconstruction when he was hired as an assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.
In 1988, he became the first African-American attorney to serve as board attorney for a county when he was hired by the Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County.
Prior to being elected to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, Judge Irving was in a general, solo practice in Greenwood. His public clients included: Leflore County School District, city of Itta Bena, Housing Authority of Greenwood, Mississippi, Inc., city of Shaw, Shaw School District, town of Jonestown and town of Sledge. Additionally, Judge Irving has served as attorney for the city of Mound Bayou (founded by ex-slaves and one of the oldest black towns in the United States), the Mound Bayou School District, and the town of Winstonville.
Judge Irving is a past president and treasurer of the Magnolia Bar Association. He is a member of the Mississippi Bar Association, Magnolia Bar Association, Leflore County Bar Association, the NAACP, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He is a former member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Council of School Board Attorneys. He is a Methodist and member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Greenwood.
Judge Irving is married to the former Ethola Garrett Collins, and they have six children.