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Former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Donates Papers to Southern Miss PDF Print E-mail
Monday, July 20, 2009
Contact Van Arnold - 601.266.5568   
Former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr., credits The University of Southern Mississippi for helping shape the man and jurist he became.

For that reason Smith, 65, could think of no better place to donate his personal papers than the McCain Library and Archives at Southern Miss. On July 17 Smith presented to the university a vast collection of office files, correspondence, newspaper clippings and other material covering his tenure (1993-2008) as a Mississippi Supreme Court justice.

As is the case with papers donated by former Chief Justice Ed Pittman, Smith’s file will not be available for public viewing until his death.

“This university really set me on a course for everything I’ve been able to accomplish,” said Smith. “I have so many memories of my time on this campus that helped prepare me for the future. My heart is right here and always has been.”

After a month of “retirement,” Smith has returned to the courtroom as a trial lawyer with Ogden & Associates in Jackson.

“I’m the type of person who can’t just sit around with nothing to do,” he said. “I love to hunt and work in the garden around my home but there’s only so much of that you can do. I found out quickly that I wasn’t quite ready for full retirement.”

A former Rankin County district attorney and middle school principal, Smith was first elected to the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1992. He took over as chief justice in 2004. Throughout his career on the bench, Smith saw himself as simply an interpreter of the law.

“I guess you could call me an originalist,” he said. “I pride myself on that. It has always been my opinion that judges are supposed to interpret the Constitution and rule accordingly.”

Bob Pierce, executive director of the Southern Miss Alumni Association, joined university President Martha Saunders in accepting the former chief justice’s papers.

“Chief Justice Smith has always been a fantastic alumna,” Pierce said. “He has served this state well and we thank him for this act of generosity.”

Former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr., second from right, a Southern Miss alumnus, presented his papers last week to the university’s archives. Accepting Smith’s gift to the university were, from left, Dean of Libraries Dr. Carol Kiehl; President Martha Saunders; and University Archivist Diane Ross. (Southern Miss photo by Danny Rawls)

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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