James E. Graves Jr.

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James Earl Graves Jr.
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Assumed office
February 15, 2011
Appointed by Barack Obama
Preceded by Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale
Associate Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court
In office
November 1, 2001 – February 15, 2011
Preceded by Fred Banks
Succeeded by Leslie D. King
Personal details
Born James Earl Graves Jr.
(1953-11-19) November 19, 1953 (age 64)
Clinton, Mississippi
Education Millsaps College (B.A.)
Syracuse University College of Law (J.D.)
Syracuse University (M.P.A.)

James Earl Graves Jr. (born November 19, 1953)[1] is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.[2][3]

Early years[edit]

The son of a Baptist minister, Graves was born and raised in Clinton, Mississippi.[4][5] He attended Sumner High School in Clinton and graduated as valedictorian with the highest grade point average and ACT score in his class.[6][7] Graves then attended Millsaps College and graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology.[6][8] After working at the Mississippi Department of Public Welfare for almost two years,[6] he enrolled at Syracuse University College of Law, where he received his Juris Doctor in 1980.[8] He also earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 1981.[8] He is a practicing Seventh-day Adventist.[7]

Legal career[edit]

Graves began his legal career as a staff attorney at Central Mississippi Legal Services in 1980.[4] He then worked in the private practice of law for three years, before returning to public service work. Graves served as legal counsel for both the Health Law Division and the Human Services Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. He also worked as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Mississippi and served as the Director of the Division of Child Support Enforcement in the Mississippi Department of Human Services.[4]

Mississippi state judicial service[edit]

In 1991, Governor Ray Mabus appointed Graves as a Circuit Court Judge in Hinds County, Mississippi.[4] Graves was then elected to the position later that year in a special election, in which he received seventy-seven percent of the votes cast. Graves was later re-elected without opposition in 1994 and 1998.

Graves was appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court by Governor Ronnie Musgrove in 2001[4] and later won election to the Court in 2004.[6] At the time, Graves was the only African-American Justice on the Court.[9] The first African-Americans to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court were Reuben Anderson, who served from 1985 to 1990, followed by Fred L. Banks Jr. from 1991 to 2001.[10]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On June 10, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Graves to be a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit[4] to replace Judge Rhesa H. Barksdale, who assumed senior status on August 8, 2009. Although approved by Senate Judiciary Committee on December 1, 2010, the Senate failed to act on the nomination.[11] Obama renominated Graves in January 2011, and the Senate confirmed him on February 14, 2011, making him the second African-American judge on the Fifth Circuit, after Carl E. Stewart of Louisiana.[2] He received his commission on February 15, 2011.[3]

Teaching experience[edit]

Graves has served as a Teaching Team Member of the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School since 1998.[12] He has also held the position of adjunct professor at Millsaps College, Tougaloo College, and Jackson State University.[12] Graves has taught courses in media law, civil rights law, and sociology of law[12] and is jurist-in-residence at Syracuse University School of Law.[7] Graves has also coached high school, college, and law school mock trial teams, including the Jackson Murrah High School mock trial team that won the 2001 state championship.[4]

Honors and awards[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Graves is married to Dr. Bettye Ramsey Graves, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at Jackson State University. They have three sons.[5][7]


  1. ^ Mylife.com profile
  2. ^ a b Congressional Record for February 14, 2011
  3. ^ a b "Graves, James Earl, Jr. - Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jerry Mitchell (June 11, 2010). "Miss. justice tapped for court". The Clarion-Ledger. Retrieved July 14, 2010. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b Casey Parks (October 21, 2004). "The JFP Interview: Justice James Graves". Jackson Free Press. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Supreme Court Justice James Graves Jr. to speak at CCC commencement". Clarksdale Press Register. May 7, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Five questions with Justice James Graves". Magnolia Report. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c "President Obama Names James E. Graves Jr. to U.S. Court of Appeals". whitehouse.gov. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on July 16, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Obama taps Graves for federal appeals post". San Jose Mercury News. Associated Press. June 11, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010. [dead link]
  10. ^ Pieschel, Bridget Smith (2008). Golden Days: Reminiscences of Alumnae, Mississippi State College for Women. University Press of Mississippi. p. 210. ISBN 978-1-60473-097-5. 
  11. ^ http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20101223/NEWS/101223026/1263/RSS
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Mississippi Supreme Court Biography: James E. Graves Jr". Archived from the original on January 5, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Fred Banks
Associate Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Leslie D. King
Preceded by
Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit