Mississippi Supreme Court Justice
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Graves has come a long way from his hardscrabble upbringing as the oldest of six children in nearby Clinton. The 1975 Millsaps College graduate has made the most of his abilities and opportunities since then. Graves earned his law degree as well as a masters' degree in public administration at Syracuse University. He came home to Mississippi and served as a circuit court judge for ten years before being appointed to the Supreme Court by then-Governor Ronnie Musgrove. He won election to the same position in 2004.
Today, Justice Graves' reputation extends well beyond the borders of Mississippi. He received the 2005 Chairman's Award for Justice and Equality at the Fall Leadership Conference of the "100 Black Men of America" organization. For seven of the last eight years, he has taught a trial advocacy workshop for third-year law students at Harvard Law School. Graves also taught a class called "Law and Society" to Millsaps undergraduates last spring.
At the 2002 commencement ceremony, Millsaps President Frances Lucas called Graves "a man of tremendous insight and intelligence," "an example of public service and civic responsibility," and "a magnificent role model."
Graves met his wife at Millsaps, and his son James also is a graduate of the college. For his part, Justice Graves is grateful for the experience he received here, and for the trajectory that it helped set for him early in his life.
Back then, I wasn't all smiles at the time. It was sometimes frustrating ... It was a much more challenging and competitive environment than I was used to. I came from a rural all-black high school to an integrated metropolitan college. I was used to doing really, really well ... valedictorian, highest ACT score, and so forth. At Millsaps, I was suddenly surrounded by tons of people who were the same way.
I made some noises that I would transfer, but I never did and I am really glad I didn't. It was sometimes intimidating, but a great opportunity for me as well ... an "intimidating opportunity." Looking back, I can't think of any place that would have prepared me for my future better than Millsaps did.