Retired Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Fair died Dec. 2
December 3, 2020
Retired Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Love Fair Jr. of Hattiesburg died Wednesday, Dec. 2. He was 74.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home in Hattiesburg is handling arrangements.
Judge Fair retired from the Court of Appeals in December 2018 after seven years of service. He previously served for five years as a chancellor on the Tenth Chancery Court of Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River and Perry counties.
Former colleagues were saddened at his passing.
Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Barnes of Tupelo said, “He is respected and loved by all of us. It’s just shocking that he’s gone.” She said, “Judge Fair’s experience on the Chancery Court bench were invaluable to the Court of Appeals. He was an excellent judge and a better human being. He was always fun. He brought cheer with him wherever he went.”
Chancellor Deborah Gambrell Chambers of Hattiesburg said, “He was not only learned but compassionate. He believed in family and his faith.” They practiced law in the same area, were both involved in Presbyterian church activities, ran for office against each other, later served together on the Tenth Chancery Court, and had daughters the same age.
“We always talked about our greatest assets in life were our daughters,” she said. “He said those girls were his greatest accomplishment.”
In their race for a spot on the Tenth Chancery Court, Fair won, and Gambrell Chambers later was appointed to the same court. “We had a very cordial race. He beat me but that didn’t stop us from being friends. He is going to be truly missed. He was one of a kind.”
Resident Jurist John N. Hudson of Natchez said, “Above all else he was a kind, caring and decent person. We will miss him.”
Court of Appeals Law Clerk Sue Ann Werre worked for Judge Fair. She said, “He absolutely loved working up here. He was usually the first car here in the morning, ready to talk with a cup of coffee.”
Werre said, “For someone who did not grow up with technology, he certainly mastered it! He was electronically filing our records before e-filing was common practice. I can just see him in that office with all his antique furniture, sitting in his creaky chair, looking at his big screen TV… also known as his computer screen.”
She said, “The world has lost a loving father, a devoted husband, a loyal friend, and a dedicated judge.”
Justice James D. Maxwell II of Oxford said, “Judge Fair was a great judge and an even better man. I can just see him now walking into our chambers holding that coffee cup. He loved to tell stories, had tremendous pride in his children, and had an unmatched knowledge of his hometown of Louisville, Mississippi. His family is in my prayers.” Justice David M. Ishee of Gulfport said, “He was such a good man and an outstanding judge. It was always a pleasure to work with him. God bless his family.”
Judge Fair is survived by his wife, Dr. Estella Galloway Fair of Hattiesburg; daughters Melissa Fair Wellons, M.D. of Nashville, Tenn., and Julia Fair Myrick of Bainbridge Island, Wash.; brother George Fair of Jackson, and four grandchildren.
Judge Fair engaged in the private practice of law in Hattiesburg for 34 years. During that time, he tried cases in 57 courthouses across the state. While in private practice, he also served by appointment as a special master in Chancery Court and as a guardian ad litem representing the interests of children in Youth Court. He was admitted to practice law in all state courts, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Neville Patterson appointed him to the Mississippi Ethics Commission in 1984. He served on the Commission for 20 years, including 19 years as vice-chair. He was board attorney for the Pat Harrison Waterway District 1988-1992.
Judge Fair grew up in Louisville, but he had generations of roots in the Pine Belt. His great-grandfather, G. C. Robertson, was the last Justice of the Peace of District 2, Perry County, before the county was split to form Perry and Forrest counties. His grandfather, Stokes Robertson Sr., served as the first member of the House of Representatives from Forrest County, as Clerk of the House for four years, and was Revenue Agent of the state of Mississippi, a statewide elective officer later renamed State Tax Collector. Judge Fair was the nephew of the late Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Stokes V. Robertson Jr.
Judge Fair earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mississippi and a law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. During college, he was editor of The Daily Mississippian twice. The college newspaper became a five day a week newspaper during his first term. He was a member of the 1966 undergraduate Hall of Fame, and in law school was on the board of the Mississippi Law Journal.
He began working as a newspaper stringer at age 15, calling in sports scores and writing obituaries. While in college, he did freelance work for the Clarion-Ledger, the now defunct Jackson Daily News, the Meridian Star, the Associated Press and United Press International.
After he earned his law degree in 1968, he served for four years on active duty with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps during the Vietnam War, earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He spent two years as chief legal officer at the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas. He was a reservist in the Jackson Naval J.A.G. Reserve Unit for five years.
He served as treasurer, secretary, vice-president and president of both the Young Lawyers Section of the Mississippi Bar and the South Central Mississippi Bar Association. He held numerous leadership positions in the Mississippi Bar, including two terms on the Board of Bar Commissioners. He was inducted as a Fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation in 1981, and was a Charter Life Fellow of the Young Lawyers.
He served on the Mississippi Supreme Court Committee on Technology in the Courts. 1988-1990, and on the Judicial Advisory Study Committee Technology Consulting Group 1993-1994. He later served as chair of the Judicial Advisory Study Committee. He also helped screen and recommend lawyers to fill judicial vacancies as a member of Gov. William Winter's Judicial Nominating Committee.
He was an Eagle Scout, and remained active in Scouting activities.
He was a trustee, elder and Sunday School teacher at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg. He was chairman of deacons, and was church treasurer for 18 years.