Court of Appeals Judge James E. Thomas died Sunday, July 4

July 4, 2004

Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge James E. Thomas died Sunday, July 4, at his home in Gulfport.

Judge Thomas, 54, was diagnosed with lung cancer this spring.

Chief Judge Leslie D. King of the Court of Appeals said, "On behalf of the Court of Appeals, I extend our heart-felt condolences to Judge Thomas' wife and family."

Chief Judge King said, "We mourn the loss of our colleague. We commend his exemplary service to this court and the state of Mississippi."

Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. said, "On behalf of the Supreme Court, I extend my heart-felt sympathy and pledge of continuous prayers for the family."

Chief Justice Smith, who visited with Judge Thomas on Thursday, said, "I've known Judge Thomas ever since he became a circuit judge and I became a county judge in Rankin County. He brought a great deal of experience and knowledge as a brilliant jurist to the Court of Appeals. His leadership and knowledge in the area of jury trials has been invaluable to the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, the trial judges and the bar. He leaves a big void which will be difficult to fill at the Court of Appeals."

Judge Thomas continued to write opinions and participate in decisions. His last decisions and votes were included in cases handed down on June 29.

Judge Thomas was one of the original members of the Court of Appeals. He had previously served as a

presiding judge of the Court of Appeals. He was elected from the 5th Congressional District in November 1994. He was re-elected in November 2000 from the district which includes Forrest, George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Lamar, Pearl River, Perry, Stone and Wayne counties.

Judge Thomas was born in Columbia and grew up in Gulfport. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in history and political science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1971. He graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1973.

A year out of law school, he was appointed assistant district attorney for the 2nd Circuit Court District, which includes Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties. After working eight years as an assistant district attorney, he was elected circuit court judge in the 2nd Circuit District in 1982. He served as a trial judge until his election to the Court of Appeals.

He previously served as chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges and as a member of the Commission on Judicial Performance. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Judicial College.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home in Gulfport is in charge of arrangements.