By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Judge James Graves Jr., the first black judge from Mississippi to sit on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, was named Mississippi Trailblazer of the Decade at Saturday’s 11th annual Trailblazer Gala.
“Judge Graves has done the single most important thing to further diversity in the state of Mississippi in the past ten years,” said the Rev. James Hull, chairman of Mississippi Trailblazers. “Just by being in the position he’s in. The fact that he was chosen to represent Mississippi on the Fifth Circuit Court Of Appeals says a lot about Mississippi and a lot about Judge Graves. It’s all about tearing down stereotypes and looking at people on their merits.”
Graves said he was honored that his life’s work was recognized.
“I’m very humbled that someone recognized the work I’ve done,” he said. “I don’t know that I could point to any event in my life that’s deserving of such an award and it’s very flattering.”
Graves was appointed to the court by President Barack Obama in 2010 and confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 14, 2011.
Former Tupelo Mayor and Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman Glenn McCullough Jr. was named Tupelo Trailblazer of the Decade for his service on the TVA board, as mayor of Tupelo and as director of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
McCullough said he doesn’t know what he has done to deserve the recognition but has been honored to work with Tupelo, Itawamba Community College, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, TVA and the Appalachian Regional Authority.
“They all seek to try to pull people together,” he said. “We’re a long way from where we would liked to be but we’re making a lot of progress.”
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi Duncan Gray III and his father, Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray Jr., were honored with the new Dr. Robert Khayat Distinguished Award for Diversity and Reconciliation.
Gray Jr. was awarded for his work furthering positive race relations during the race riots in Oxford while serving as rector as St. Peters.
He said he remembers asking and begging Ole Miss students to return to their dormitories and calm down as people invaded the Ole Miss campus to violently protest the admission of James Meredith, the university’s first black student.
Gray III said he has tried to follow in his father’s footsteps to tear down the now invisible walls of racial segregation.
• Dr. David Cole – Mississippi Leadership Award
• Allegra Brigham – Rep. Leonard Morris Award for Public Service and Integrity
• Chief Phyllis Anderson, Red Water – Sam Haskell Spirit of America Award
• Denotee Marti – the Rev. Robert Jamison Lifetime Achievement Award
• Pastor Charles and Dr. Cheryl Penson – Tupelo Trailblazers
• Mary Werner – Mississippi Trailblazers Legacy Award
• Alivia Paden Roberts – Mississippi Trailblazers Promising Youth Award