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

Justice Graves to speak at christening of warship Gravely

May 13, 2009

Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice James E. Graves Jr. will be one of the guest speakers at the christening of the guided missile destroyer Gravely at 10 a.m. May 16 at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Pascagoula.

The Gravely is named in honor of the late Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr., the U.S. Navy’s first African-American admiral.

Justice Graves will welcome visitors to Mississippi. The principal address will be given by retired Adm. J. Paul Reason. Alma Gravely of Haymarket, Va., Vice Adm. Gravely’s widow, will serve as ship’s sponsor and christen the vessel.

Invitations are required to attend the christening. Inquiries regarding media passes should be directed to Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. The ceremony will be streamed live on the Internet at:

Vice Adm. Gravely in his 38-year naval career achieved many firsts for African Americans. He became the first African American to be commissioned as an officer from Navy Reserve Officer Training after completing midshipman training in December 1944. He later became the first African American to command a warship; to command a major warship; to achieve flag rank and eventually vice admiral; and to command a fleet, the U.S. 3rd Fleet. At his retirement in 1980, he was director of the Defense Communications Agency in Washington, D.C., overseeing the communications network linking Washington with American and allied bases worldwide.

Throughout his career, Vice Adm. Gravely served as a mentor for others. His oft-repeated motto was that education, motivation and perseverance are a formula for success.

Justice Graves promotes a similar message in frequent motivational speeches to students, telling them that education and determination made it possible for him to achieve a position on the state’s highest court. Outside the court, he works to teach, motivate and inspire young people.

Justice Graves, who grew up in Clinton and lives in Jackson, has been a member of the Mississippi Supreme Court since Nov. 1, 2001. He became a Presiding Justice of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2009.

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. He served for 10 years as a circuit court judge for the Seventh Circuit District of Hinds County.

Justice Graves 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.