Justice Graves pledges to serve with honor, dignity and integrity

November 15, 2001

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James E. Graves Jr. at his investiture Thursday pledged to serve the state of Mississippi with honor, dignity and integrity.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove on October 29 appointed Graves, a Hinds County Circuit Court judge, to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Fred L. Banks Jr. Banks and former Justice Reuben Anderson before him came to the Supreme Court bench from the Hinds County Circuit Court.

Graves said, "My predecessors, Justice Banks and Justice Anderson, set high standards, so as I take my place on this venerable institution of our democracy, I am very mindful that this institution is greater than any individual and is greater than the sum of its parts, and I am bound and determined to serve the people of the state of Mississippi with honor and dignity and integrity, so help me God."

Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman, who administered the oath of office to Graves, hired him years before to work as a special assistant attorney general when Pittman served as attorney general.

Pittman said, "I have watched Justice Graves grow and mature in his judicial service and the time was right and he was ready to be appointed and serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court."

Pittman said Graves has been an effective manager in his service on the Circuit Court, and he has been an innovator with courtroom technology. Pittman said Graves will bring that same innovation to the Supreme Court.

"He's energetic, he's enthusiastic and he's going to shake this group up," Pittman said, prompting a ripple of laughter through the standing room only crowd that overflowed into the foyer outside the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the Capitol.

Graves paid tribute to his family and to the educators who gave their time and talents to prepare him.

One by one, Graves recognized Pearl Latham, his former fifth grade teacher at Sumner Hill High School in Clinton; Grace Lee, his seventh grade science teacher at Sumner Hill; former Millsaps College Sociology Professor Frances Coker; and Former Syracuse University Associate Dean and Law Professor James M. Douglas. He also recognized the late Hallie Myers, his senior English teacher and STAR teacher at Sumner Hill High.

Graves said Latham "drove me around to spelling bees all over rural Mississippi....I treasure all she did for me and she is in part responsible for the fact that I am able to stand before you today."

Lee challenged her students. "I want you to know how much the training that you gave to me during that seventh grade school year has meant to me," Graves told her.

Of Myers, Graves said, "The language skills he taught me will be used across the street when I begin writing opinions as a Supreme Court justice."

Graves said Coker's class inspired him to change his major to sociology at Millsaps. "She made the course so relevant, so vibrant, so compelling, so meaningful," Graves said. "She helped me so much with my growth and my development."

Graves said Douglas called him at home one Saturday to tell him that he had been accepted to Syracuse University College of Law. Graves said he never had a class under Professor Douglas, but he learned much from him that has affected his decision making. "He gives back tirelessly," Graves said.

Graves recognized his parents, his wife, his children and his siblings.

His wife, Dr. Betty Graves, Jackson State University Director of Data Management and Records, "for 25 years has always been supportive, has never doubted anything I ever thought I could do and has never ever complained. Never," Graves said.

Graves said his father, Rev. James Graves Sr., "has a gift for incisiveness." Graves said he took a lesson from his father in how to get to the heart of a matter quickly. Rev. Graves, pastor of Fannin Baptist Church, gave the invocation.

Speaking of his father and his mother, Rosie Graves, the younger Graves said, "I am enormously proud of them. My father is my hero and my mother is my heroine."

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