Judge Henry Lackey died August 17, 2018

August 17, 2018

Retired Circuit Judge Henry Lafayette Lackey died August 17 at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Calhoun City. He was 83.

Judge Henry Lackey

A funeral service will be held Sunday, Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Calhoun City. Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at the church. Pryor Funeral Home in Calhoun City is in charge of arrangements.

Judge Lackey served for 17 years as Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial District. He served on the judicial disciplinary Commission on Judicial Performance for six years. He was chairman at the time he retired in December 2010.

He left his mark on the judiciary with an unwavering commitment to judicial integrity. He alerted federal authorities of an attempted bribe and wore a wire in an investigation that rocked the legal community and sent the state’s most famous lawyer and other high-profile attorneys to prison.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. said, “He was one of the most outstanding jurists in the history of the state. His courageous acts in the bribery investigation were done without regard to his health and safety, for the preservation of the integrity of the judiciary. He is one of my heroes.”

Judge Lackey was indignant that anyone would have thought he could be influenced, but he spoke modestly of his role. “It's just doing what you promised to do when you took the oath” to be a judge. He said later, “I just did what so many judges do every day: fulfill their responsibility and their obligation. Public officials are just supposed to do what is right.”

Gov. Kirk Fordice appointed Judge Lackey to the Third Circuit District of Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties in 1993. He was elected four times without opposition. He continued his judicial service after he retired from the Circuit Court bench. Six days after his last term ended, he signed up as a senior status judge. For seven more years, he heard cases around the state by appointment of the Supreme Court, taking over for judges who stepped aside due to conflicts. He handled 45 cases as a senior status judge.

Judge Lackey grew up in Calhoun City. He graduated from Calhoun City High School in 1952, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Mississippi College in 1956. He paid a large portion of his tuition by working part time for Deposit Guaranty National Bank while he was a student, and from his childhood savings. When he was in elementary and high school, he ran his popcorn popper at his father’s Ben Franklin five and ten-cent store in Calhoun City.

Shortly after he earned his undergraduate degree, he went home to run the family business after his father passed away. Several years later, his National Guard unit was activated. He served in the U.S. Army in 1961 and 1962.

He enrolled in law school immediately after he left the Army. He graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1966. He was soon elected Calhoun County prosecuting attorney, and served a four-year term.

He then accepted an appointment for a year as the state’s first public defender. Judge Soggy Sweat oversaw the pilot program at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Lackey and three senior law students represented indigent defendants in the seven counties of the Third Circuit District. The pilot program helped lay the groundwork for the Legislature to give counties authority to designate funds for public defenders.

He returned to private law practice in Calhoun City and served as board attorney for the Calhoun County Board of Supervisors for eight years. He was a solo practitioner for 26 years, representing every kind of case that came through his door.

He was a member of the Mississippi Bar for almost 52 years, having been admitted to the practice of law on Aug. 21, 1966. He was a former president of the Calhoun County Bar Association and the Third Circuit Bar Association. He was a fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Award in 2008.

He previously served on the Board of Trustees of Mississippi College and as President of the Fifty Year Club. In 2009, Mississippi College honored him as Alumnus of the Year. He also was a recipient of the Order of the Golden Arrow.

He was a member of First Baptist Church in Calhoun City for more than 70 years, and served as a deacon. He taught Sunday School for about 50 years. He and his friends played in a small band that entertained at nursing homes and at other benefit programs.

He is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, retired music teacher Helen Rose James Lackey of Calhoun City, and son Kevin Lackey of Ridgeland, director of the Administrative Office of Courts.