Justice Graves will spotlight education at Nov. 15 investiture

November 7, 2001

Education will be the focus of Supreme Court Justice James E. Graves Jr.'s investiture ceremony Nov. 15.

The formal investiture is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the New Capitol.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove appointed Graves Oct. 29 to the vacancy created by Justice Fred L. Banks Jr.'s retirement.

Graves said, "I want to spotlight education and give some thanks to people who influenced me and educated me."

Guests at the investiture will include teachers Pearl Latham and Grace Lee and professors Frances Coker and James Douglas. Graves will also honor the late Hallie Myers.

Latham taught Graves in the fifth grade at Sumner Hill High School in Clinton. Lee taught Graves seventh grade science, and Myers taught him senior English, also at Sumner Hill. Graves selected Myers as his STAR teacher when he was STAR Student. The Mississippi Economic Council's academic achievement program recognizes high school seniors who have the highest grade point average and American College Test (ACT) score. A representative of the Mississippi Economic Council will represent Myers at the investiture.

"They inspired me. They prepared me. They chastised me," Graves said.

Coker taught Graves sociology at Millsaps College.

"Hers was the class I enjoyed most at Millsaps. It influenced me to major in sociology," said Graves, who got a BA degree at Millsaps. "She cared about me as a student and about my growth and development in the classroom, and my overall development."

Douglas was associate dean and a professor at Syracuse University when he recruited Graves to attend the Syracuse University College of Law. Graves got his law degree there, and later got a Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Douglas is now a law professor at Texas Southern University.

"He has been a mentor," Graves said.

Graves said he wants to emphasize the importance of education because he sees the lack of it as a contributing factor to criminal conduct. In 10 years as a trial judge on the Hinds County Circuit Court, he repeatedly witnessed school dropouts charged with crimes.

"Among the criminal defendants I sentenced during the time I served as a circuit judge, the thing that is the most common among all of them is that they dropped out of school," Graves said. "I'm convinced there is a direct correlation between incarceration and lack of education."

"If we can keep people in school, I think we can greatly reduce the likelihood that they will end up becoming criminals," Graves said.

As Circuit Judge, Graves frequently included getting a General Education Development degree (GED) as part of the terms of the sentence for youthful offenders who came to his court.

Graves has been an educator and mentor for students. He has served as an instructor at Harvard Law School, where he taught trial advocacy in 1998, 1999, and 2000. He has served as an adjunct professor at Jackson State University, where he taught both media law and civil rights law.

He is also active in public school activities. Jackson Public Schools named him Parent of the Year for 2000-2001. He coaches student mock trial teams. Teams he coached reached mock trial state finals every year since 1991. The Jackson Murrah High School mock trial team that he helped coach won the 2001 state championship competition.

For more information, contact Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, court public information officer, at 601-354-7452.