HATTIESBURG - Mississippi
Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith was unable to attend
his own graduation from The University of Southern Mississippi in
1965, because of work obligations and his imminent conscription
into the military.
On Monday, nearly 40 years later, he made up for lost
time as he gave the commencement address to more than 1,000 degree
candidates during Southern Miss' 2004 summer commencement exercises
held at the James Lynn Cartlidge Multi Purpose Center just south
of the university's campus on U.S. Highway 49.
"This is a special occasion for me, a tremendous
honor," Smith said prior to his address.
Smith touched on what he described as "an age-old
American tradition" of having a solid foundation of values
to achieve true success in life.
"Having money in life is not everything,"
he said. "It's important to have character, a love of family
and a love for your fellow man," he said.
Smith was elected to the state Supreme Court in 1993. He graduated
from Southern Miss in 1965 with a bachelor of science in history
and political science. He received his juris doctorate from the
Jackson School of Law in 1972. From 1973 until 1980, he was city
prosecuting attorney for the city of Pearl, and in 1976 was prosecuting
attorney for Rankin County.
From 1977 until 1982, Smith served as district attorney
for the 20th Circuit Court District, and from April 1982 until his
election to the state Supreme Court, he served as County Court judge
in Rankin County. He also served three years in the U.S. Army and
four years in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Smith said he hoped he could inspire some of Monday's
graduates to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in public
service, despite perceived negative attitudes about elected and
other government officials.
"In spite of the (political) divisiveness in
the country right now, I hope there are still those who would want
to take on the challenge of a career in public service," he
Carrie Johnikin of Laurel looked on at the College
of Education and Psychology banner prior to the beginning of commencement
ceremonies, contemplating the conclusion of her undergraduate program.
She was scheduled to receive a degree in reading instruction.
"I'm very excited," Johnikin said. "I've
worked very hard for this, and my family has supported me all the
For graduating senior Amanda Dabbs of Hattiesburg,
Monday's commencement ceremony was just one of many big moments
for her this year. In addition to completing her requirements for
a degree in marketing, she also got married this year and is expecting
her first baby in November.
"I'm excited and relieved," she said of
graduating. "I feel like I've really accomplished something."