Rankin Countians honor Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr.

May 21, 2004

The Rankin County judiciary and the Rankin County Bar Association on Friday honored Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. by placing his portrait in the Rankin County Justice Center in Brandon.

Judges and lawyers during the 2 p.m. ceremony praised Chief Justice Smith's leadership and his contributions to Rankin County and the state.

Rankin County Chancery Judge Thomas L. Zebert said Chief Justice Smith has the job of leading efforts to improve the justice system.

"It will be your job to lead all of us to what the judiciary ought to be," Judge Zebert said. "With his leadership and his experience, this is going to be a great time for Mississippi."

Maintaining honor and integrity of the judiciary is one of Chief Justice Smith's priorities. "The buck stops with me," he said. "The buck stops with the judiciary first to set an example."

"I intend to wake up the silent majority of the lawyers of this state to take back the bar and leave it in the same condition we found it when we started practicing law," Chief Justice Smith said. "I for one intend to do my part and see that it is done to perfection."

Quoting the Chinese Warlord Sun Zu, Chief Justice Smith said, "Anything in life will never come easy or cheap. Before you start a fight, pick a hill worth dying on."

Chief Justice Smith introduced Presiding Justices William L. Waller Jr. and Kay Cobb and Justices George C. Carlson Jr. and Michael K. Randolph. Chief Justice Smith said, "I recognize that whatever meager accomplishments I will do as a chief justice will be because of these individuals right here."

Chief Justice Smith credited prayer, perseverance and a positive attitude for his achievements. "You never give up hope. When you stand up and you believe and you just keep praying, 'Lord, it's all in Your hands,' it's got me where I am," he said. He added,"Anything and everything you do in life, show some enthusiasm."

Chief Justice Smith lives in Rankin County. He was born in Louisville and grew up in Pelahatchie. He earned his law degree while serving as principal of Pearl Junior High School. He practiced law in Rankin County with Billy G. Bridges, now a member of the Court of Appeals, attorney Paul Henderson and Alfred G. Nicols, now a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

He was Pearl city prosecuting attorney 1973-1980. He served as Rankin County prosecuting attorney in 1976. He was appointed district attorney for the 20th Circuit Court District of Rankin and Madison counties in 1977. He continued to serve in that position until Gov. William Winter appointed him as Rankin County Court Judge in 1982.

Chief Justice Smith was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1992 and took office in January 1993. He is the longest serving member of the Mississippi Supreme Court. He became Chief Justice April 1.

Rankin County Bar Association President David L. Morrow Jr. said, "The Rankin County Bar Association is extremely proud of the accomplishments of Chief Justice Jim Smith. He is one of our own who has always been a great credit to the Rankin County Bar Association and now will be in a position to be a great asset to the people of the State of Mississippi."

Rankin County Judge Thomas H. Broome said Rankin County and the state is the beneficiary of Chief Justice Smith's hard work. Chief Justice Smith for 10 years served as a Rankin County Court judge, which included serving as Youth Court judge.

"Judge Broome said, "We appreciate all of the work he has done with the children of Rankin County and of the state."

Rankin County Supervisor Larry Swales said, "The state of Mississippi is very fortunate and honored to have him as our chief justice."

Circuit Judge Samac Richardson said, " You can't find a more devoted husband and caring and concerned parent. He is a man among men. He will make an excellent chief justice and I am very proud to call him my friend."

Chief Justice Smith said, "It means a lot more when your home folks do this. I am so honored and humbled."