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

Justice Graves to speak at Corinth Civil War park opening

May 14, 2009

Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice James E. Graves Jr. will speak May 23 in Corinth at the opening of a park which commemorates the lives of African Americans who sought freedom during the Civil War. The ceremony is at 10 a.m. at Contraband Camp Park at 850 North Parkway in Corinth.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran also will speak at the opening ceremony.

African Americans who fled plantations seeking freedom after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation were sheltered under the protection of U.S. Army troops in Corinth. Families from Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee gathered at what became known as Corinth Contraband Camp. A community sprang up there, and a regiment of African-American soldiers, the 1 st Alabama Infantry of African Descent, was formed to guard the camp. The military unit, later named the 55th U.S. Colored Troops, saw combat at Brice’s Crossroads and at Waterford, said Rosemary Williams, chair of the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission.

The National Park Service will manage Contraband Camp Park, which is located on 21 acres of the original encampment. The park opening ceremony is organized by the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission, which works to preserve and interpret Corinth and Alcorn County’s nationally significant Civil War sites.

The theme of the ceremony will be “Building on a strong foundation: the education and legacy of the Corinth Contraband Camp.”

Justice Graves is the third African American to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court. He is the only African American currently serving on the state’s highest court.

Justice Graves was appointed to the Supreme Court on Nov. 1, 2001. He became a Presiding Justice of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2009. The Jackson resident previously served for 10 years as a circuit court judge for the Seventh Circuit District of Hinds County.

Justice Graves, who grew up in Clinton, received a B.A. degree in sociology from Millsaps College. He received his law degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He also holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Upon graduation from law school, he worked as a staff attorney at Central Mississippi Legal Services and as a special assistant attorney general. He headed the Human Services Division of the attorney general's office, where he served as chief legal counsel to the Mississippi Department of Human Services. He later was director of the Division of Child Support Enforcement of the Mississippi Department of Human Services.