Graves is ‘Trailblazer of Decade’

By NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Graves made history when he became the first African-American judge from Mississippi named to that court, and his legal career will be recognized with the Mississippi Trailblazer of the Decade award.
Graves will be honored at the annual Mississippi Trailblazers Awards Ceremony and Black Tie Gala at Tupelo’s BancorpSouth Conference Center on May 4.
Since 2003, The Mississippi Trailblazers Awards has recognized Mississippians for their significant contributions to racial, gender and cultural diversity through their professional work and public service.
A Clinton native, Judge Graves served on the Mississippi Supreme Court before his appointment to the 5th Circuit.
The Mississippi Trailblazers will also mark its 10th anniversary by simultaneously honoring three Mississippians who have made significant impact on their state’s difficult journey toward racial diversity and reconciliation: Ole Miss Chancellor Emeritus Robert C. Khayat and the Rt. Revs. Duncan M. Gray Jr. and Duncan M. Gray III. The father and son Grays, who have both served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, will receive the first Dr. Robert C. Khayat Distinguished Award for Diversity and Racial Reconciliation.
In October 1962, Rev. Duncan Gray Jr. – then rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford – stood against violent rioters on the Ole Miss campus who were protesting James Meredith’s enrollment into the university as its first black student. Fifty years later, Gray III helped conceive the “A Day of Remembrance” program to commemorate Meredith’s historical enrollment. Both Grays have made racial reconciliation a life mission.
The Grays, both of Jackson, are the second father and son to be recognized by the Mississippi Trailblazers, following Tupelo’s Jack Reed Sr. and Jr., who were honored in 2005 and 2011, respectively.
Under Khayat’s leadership, Ole Miss came to terms with its turbulent history. Part of his legacy is a monument centrally located on campus depicting Meredith walking through the door of segregation.
Other members of the Mississippi Trailblazers Class of 2013 include:
• Dr. David Cole of Fulton, retiring president of Itawamba Community College and former chief of staff to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove – Mississippi Leadership Award.
• Allegra Brigham of Columbus, former interim president of Mississippi University for Women, civic and business leader – Rep. Leonard Morris Award for Public Service and Integrity.
• Chief Phyllis Anderson of Red Water, chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians – Sam Haskell Spirit of America Award.
• Denotee Martin of New Albany, philanthropist, business leader – Rev. Robert Jamison Lifetime Achievement Award.
• Pastor Charles Penson and Dr. Cheryl Penson of Tupelo, religious, community and education leaders – Tupelo Trailblazers.
• Glenn McCullough Jr. of Tupelo, former mayor of Tupelo and former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority – Tupelo Trailblazer of the Decade.
• Mary Werner of Saltillo, business and civic leader, first female chair of the Community Development Foundation – Mississippi Trailblazers Legacy Award.
• Alivia Paden Roberts of Shannon, 2013 Miss Teen Tupelo, Honors Student, Youth Missionary – Mississippi Trailblazers Promising Youth Award.
Previous Mississippi Trailblazers recipients include Maj. Gen. Augustus Leon Collins, Mississippi adjutant general; Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council; Dr. Dolphus Weary, Mission Mississippi chairman emeritus; Percy Watson, former chairman of the Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee; Dr. Katrina Poe, 2005 Country Doctor of the Year; and Sam Haskell, international entertainment executive and best-selling author.

For ticket information for the Mississippi Trailblazers awards ceremony May 4, call (662) 213-3027 or email

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