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

Bar Memorial Service held at Mississippi Supreme Court

October 13, 2020

The Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Bar on Tuesday, Oct. 13, honored the lives and service of 69 attorneys who died during the past year.
Rankin County New Courthouse

The ceremony was livestreamed and archived. It may be viewed at this link:

Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph, who presided over the ceremony, said, “Those we honor today cover the spectrum of the legal practice in our state: from solo practitioners to partners of some of Mississippi’s finest law firms. We honor public servants. We honor former prosecutors, defenders, and jurists.” They upheld “the highest standards of our profession: dignity, honor, integrity, and sacrifice.”

Mississippi Bar President Jennifer Ingram Johnson of Hattiesburg in her eulogy said, “The men and women we memorialize today chose an honored profession, one that requires much of its members, and they each lived up to the lofty requirements....As public citizens they sought improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. They furthered the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system, and they devoted professional time and resources to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all of those who could not afford adequate legal counsel.”

Rankin County New Courthouse

David Maron, chair of the Bar Memorial Service Committee, read the Bar Memorial Resolution, and the names of each of the 69 attorneys who were honored.

Among those who died last year were former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lenore L. Prather of Columbus, former Court of Appeals Chief Judge Billy G. Bridges of Brandon, former Chancellor William G. Willard Jr. of Clarksdale, former Hinds County Court Judge Houston Patton of Jackson, former District Attorney Cono A. Caranna II of Gulfport and former U.S. District Court Clerk J.T. Noblin of Jackson.

Johnson called Chief Justice Prather “a true mentor and trailblazer for all lawyers, but especially to the women who have been admitted behind her.” She was admitted to the practice of law in 1955. She was the first woman to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court, and was the court’s only female Chief Justice. She died April 11 at her home in Columbus.

Johnson and Chief Justice Randolph noted that Justice Prather wrote two landmark decisions that shaped the practice of family law. Albright v. Albright created a list of considerations, now known as Albright Factors, to determine the best interests of the child in parental custody disputes. Ferguson v. Ferguson adopted guidelines for equitable distribution of marital assets in divorce, including recognizing both spouses’ contributions to the family.

Judge Bridges was one of the original members of the Court of Appeals, serving from January 1995 through December 2005. His career included service as a chancellor, district attorney and county prosecuting attorney. “Thirty-eight years he gave to public service,” Chief Justice Randolph said. Judge Bridges was a veteran of the Korean War, having attained the rank of sergeant in the U.S. Marines.

Chief Justice Randolph noted that District Attorney Caranna and Chancellor Willard were Vietnam War veterans. He said that Caranna was one of the first attorneys he met 46 years ago, when Caranna was Biloxi city attorney and Randolph was in law school. “Cono and I hit it off very well. I suppose part of it was that both of us survived the Vietnam War,” he recalled. Caranna served as an Army rifle company commander, earning a Bronze Star with Valor device, two Oak Leaf Clusters, an Air Medal, and a Purple Heart. “Cono was one half of a great legal team, for he was married to the esteemed Chancellor, Margaret Alphonso. His legal accomplishments exceed my time limits.”

Judge Willard was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Valor for his outstanding leadership under fire, as well as a Combat Action Ribbon. He was Chief Justice Randolph’s law school classmate and preceded him as president of the Law School Student Body at the University of Mississippi.

Chief Justice Randolph recalled Jackson attorney Tom Royals, who in 40 years of law practice had “a reputation as a top criminal defense attorney. Those of you who know him better may recall that he produced Lucinda Williams’ first album, ‘Ramblin’,’ in 1979, and later published Conversations with Will D. Campbell in 2018.”

Johnson said, “These men and women that we memorialize today played a vital role in the preservation of our society and they truly made a difference in our profession and in our state. Each and every one of the men and women served as role models for the remaining 11,000 men and women who are here now to carry out the responsibilities of the legal profession.”

Those honored, and their year of admission to the Mississippi Bar, are:
Lester Alvis, Jr., Jackson, 1952;
Jerry Holmes Blount, Madison, 1967;
Howard W. Bowen, Dallas, Texas, 1985;
Donald W. Boykin, Jackson, 1980;
Patrick J. Boyle, Oxford, 1973;
Billy G. Bridges, Brandon, 1961;
H. D. Brock, Greenwood, 1968;
Donald V. Burch, Brandon, 1970;
Michael D. Caples, Ridgeland, 1994;
Cono A. Caranna II, Gulfport, 1972;
Clinton C. Carter, Montgomery, Ala., 2000;
William J. Clayton, Sardis, 1970;
Lara Ashley Coleman, Jackson, 1996;
Melvin G. Cooper, Biloxi, 1989;
Kenneth W. Craig, Pisgah Forest, NC, 1981;
Bradley Dillard, Tupelo, 1995;
Jonathan Michael Farris, Hattiesburg, 1999;
Michael R. Farrow, Columbus, 1982;
Cecil A. Ford, Ridgeland, 1966;
Albert J. Gamot, Jr., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 1970;
John M. Gardner, Gulfport, 1944;
Leslie C. Gates, Meridian, 1975;
Gary L. Geeslin, Columbus, 1968;
Charles E. Gibson III, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., 1968;
John M. Gilmore, Durant, 1995;
Don O. Gleason, Oxford, 1971;
Lee P. Gore, Hattiesburg, 1978;
J. Tyson Graham, Columbus, 1967;
William E. Hathorn, Brookhaven, 1973;
Elizabeth J. Hicks, Flora, 1997;
Michael C. Hill, Gulfport, 1977;
Robert Hodges, Baton Rouge, La., 1953;
W. R. Hunter, Gulfport, 1970;
G. N. Jones, Jr., Waynesboro, 1964;
Melbourne E. Joseph, Watertown, NY, 1979;
Earl Keyes, Ridgeland, 1954;
Stuart G. Kruger, Ridgeland, 1988;
Melvin L. Mitchell, Pascagoula, 1963;
J. T. Noblin, Jackson, 1964;
Celeste G. O’Keeffe, Laurel, 2011;
Gary R. Parvin, Brandon, 1969;
Gerald C. Patch, Picayune, 1978;
Houston Patton, Jackson, 1973;
Matthew S. Poole, Jackson, 2004;
Lenore L. Prather, Columbus, 1955;
John L. Prichard, Meridian, 1958;
William A. Pyle, Jackson, 1967;
Harvey B. Ray, Meridian, 1959;
William E. Ready, Sr., Meridian, 1956;
John R. Rittelmeyer, Cary, NC, 1988;
Sara H. Roberts, Flowood, 2005;
Bobby D. Robinson, Vicksburg, 1967;
Frederick R. Rogers, New Albany, 1977;
Thomas E. Royals, Jackson, 1969;
Forrest D. Ruegger, Purvis, 1967;
Ben Ladnier Saucier, Petal, 1974;
Jonathan Douglas Shelton, Tupelo, 2007;
Leland S. Smith III, Jackson, 1982;
Leslie W. Smith, Biloxi, 1993;
Paul G. Swartzfager, Jr., Laurel, 1974;
Jennifer Leann Thompson, Jackson, 2011;
James A. Torrey, Jr., Meadville, 1960;
Jay A. Travis III, Jackson, 1965;
Eddie H. Tucker, Jackson, 1965;
Harlon H. Varnado, Raymond, 1960;
William G. Willard, Jr., Clarksdale, 1974;
Sally B. Williamson, Lexington, 1990;
Alvin R. Wright, Jr., Carthage, 1954;
J. D. Wynne, Lexington, 1987.