Circuit Judge George Mitchell of Eupora died April 19
April 19, 2022
Circuit Judge George M. Mitchell Jr. of Eupora died on Tuesday, April 19, at a hospital in Northport, Ala., after surgery on April 18. He was 77.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Oliver Funeral Home in Eupora is handling arrangements. Interment is expected to be at North Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Kilmichael.
Judge Mitchell served for more than six years as a state Circuit Judge of the Fifth Circuit Court District that includes Attala, Carroll, Choctaw, Grenada, Montgomery, Webster, and Winston counties. He was appointed to a vacancy on the court and took office Jan. 1, 2016. He was elected in November 2016 and re-elected in November 2018.
Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to appoint a judge to the unexpired term, which will end in December.
Judge Mitchell was unopposed in the non-partisan general election scheduled for Nov. 8. The candidate qualifying deadline passed on Feb. 1. Mississippi’s election statute regarding the death of the sole qualified judicial candidate, Mississippi Code Section 23-15-977 (4) says:
“If only one (1) person files his or her intent to be a candidate for a judicial office and that person later dies, resigns or is otherwise disqualified from holding the judicial office after the deadline provided for in subsection (1) of this section but more than seventy (70) days before the date of the general election, the Governor, upon notification of the death, resignation or disqualification of the person, shall issue a proclamation authorizing candidates to file their intent to be a candidate for that judicial office for a period of not less than seven (7) nor more than ten (10) days from the date of the proclamation.”
Senior Circuit Judge Joseph Loper of Ackerman worked closely with Judge Mitchell. Judge Loper said, “I’m just heartbroken by the news.”
Judge Loper said, “His entire life was one of service. He retired as a Brigadier General in the Mississippi Air National Guard. He was at an age when most men would have thought about retiring, but he had a desire to continue service to the public. He was a dedicated public servant all of his life.”
Judge Loper said he and Judge Mitchell consulted often about matters in the seven-county district. Judge Mitchell arrived at work early and stayed late. “He was a very hard worker, just a real workhorse.”
Under a gruff exterior was a kindhearted soul, Judge Loper said. “He did a lot of things for a lot of people.”
Former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., like Judge Mitchell, has an extensive military background, retiring at the rank of Brigadier General from the Mississippi Army National Guard. He called Judge Mitchell “the ultimate citizen soldier who sacrificed his personal time in the service of our country in the Air National Guard.”
They were friends since law school. They met in 1975 in Moot Court. “I knew then he was a tireless student of the law, a protector of ethics and a zealous advocate for justice,” Justice Waller said. “He upheld these principles as a member of the Bar and carried them with him as a Circuit Court Judge.” Justice Waller gave him the oath of office after Judge Mitchell won his first election.
A January 2013 fire destroyed the Webster County Courthouse in Walthall. Court was held in other facilities until a new courthouse was completed in 2019. Justice Waller said that Judge Mitchell called from time to time to let him know about the alternative venues that were used to keep the docket moving. “His model for hard work and open courts as a judge is one for all to emulate.”
Justice Waller said, “He loved his family and his church. His life made a difference.”
Judge Mitchell was a Vietnam War veteran with 32 years of military service. He served as a Judge Advocate in the Mississippi Air National Guard and a Judge on the Mississippi Court of Military Appeals. His many military honors included the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, the Mississippi Magnolia Cross and the Air Force Legion of Merit.
Judge Mitchell practiced law in Eupora for 32 years before his appointment to the bench. He was city attorney and city prosecuting attorney for the town of Maben and served as the Webster County School Board attorney.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Mississippi State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law.