Pittman family presents former Chief Justice’s portrait to Supreme Court
Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. said his predecessor, Edwin Lloyd Pittman, led the court through tough times.
Current and former justices and judges, current and former court staff, attorneys and members of former Chief Justice Pittman’s family gathered Tuesday in the lobby of the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson for the formal presentation of Pittman’s portrait to the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Smith said, “Ed Pittman became Chief Justice during a time which I would like to forget, but God always places the right people in the right places for just such a time. He led us through the fire. Things are quite different now.”
Former Chief Justice Pittman said, “The Court we have today is a good, collegiate, scholastically strong court....The Court is back where it should be.”
Chief Justice Smith noted that Pittman was the only justice who had served in all three branches of government. “Justice Pittman, we owe you a great debt of gratitude. The citizens of Mississippi are far better off for the service you have rendered,” Chief Justice Smith said.
Mississippi Bar president C. York Craig Jr. said, “I have had the privilege over 33 years of practice to witness his devotion to all of the people of Mississippi....He’s done it all with humility and compassion.”
Pittman said, “It is an honor to have this portrait given to this Court.”
He thanked his children and his wife Virginia’s children for commissioning the portrait, which was painted by Jackson artist Jane Nichols. The portrait depicts former Chief Justice Pittman standing with his hands folded across the back of a favorite chair bearing the coat of arms of the state of Mississippi. The Capitol is in the background.
Former Chief Justice Pittman thanked the voters who allowed him to serve in public office during a career that spanned 40 years, and he thanked the staff who worked for him. “I have always depended on good people, and they have never let me down.”
Pittman, who grew up in Hattiesburg, served in the Mississippi State Senate from 1964 to 1972. He served as State Treasurer from 1976 to 1980; as Secretary of State from 1980 to 1984; and as Attorney General from 1984 to 1988. He joined the Mississippi Supreme Court in January 1989. He became chief justice in January 2001. Former Chief Justice Pittman retired March 31, 2004. He retired from the Mississippi National Guard at the rank of Brigadier General with 30 years of service. He now practices law in Ridgeland.
He paused to reflect upon the lives and work of colleagues whose portraits already hang in the lobby of the Gartin Building. The late Justice Michael Sullivan of Hattiesburg was Chief Justice Pittman’s former law partner. The portrait of former Chief Justice Roy Noble Lee of Forest hangs alongside that of his father, former Chief Justice Percy Mercer Lee. Former Chief Justice Roy Noble Lee, who led the Supreme Court when Pittman joined the Court, attended the portrait unveiling on Tuesday.
“He was a great leader of this Court,” Pittman said of the man who was his Chief Justice.