Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

USM law fellowship names Chief Justice Smith as Distinguished Public Servant

July 31, 2006

A University of Southern Mississippi organization established to promote interest in careers in the legal profession has honored Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. as its first recipient of the Distinguished Public Servant Award.

Juris Sodalitas, a recently formed law fellowship at the University of Southern Mississippi, presented the award to Chief Justice Smith on July 7 at its first membership reception at the Mississippi Bar Convention in Sandestin, Fla.

Chief Justice Smith, a University of Southern Mississippi alumnus and supporter of Juris Sodalitas, explained that the organization’s purpose is to promote interest in careers in law and provide scholarships for students who wish to pursue law degrees after graduation from USM .

Juris Sodalitas Chairman Jim Warren of Jackson said, “We feel very privileged to honor such a notable alumnus as Chief Justice Smith. His service to the state of Mississippi has certainly made Southern Miss proud.”

Chief Justice Smith received a Bachelor of Science degree in history and political science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1965. He earned his law degree from the Mississippi College School of Law, formerly Jackson School of Law, in 1972 while serving as principal of Pearl Junior High School. He earned a master’s degree in education administration from Mississippi College in 1973.

Chief Justice Smith has been a public servant for 33 years. Beginning in 1973 and continuing until 1980, he was city prosecuting attorney for the city of Pearl. 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 he was appointed Rankin County Court Judge in 1982.

He was elected to the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1992 and took office in January 1993. As the court’s longest serving member, he became Chief Justice on April 1, 2004.