PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: New judge’s swearing in evokes pride

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Nice things don’t always happen to nice people, but sometimes the stars align anyway.
Last week, it was my true honor to attend the investiture of Mississippi’s newest federal judge, Carlton W. Reeves of Jackson.
He is our state’s first black federal judge since the mid-1980s, and his humble beginnings made everyone there all the prouder and more pleased for his honor.
It was a double moment of pride for me, as the mother of Reeves’ senior law clerk.
The emotional 90-minute ceremony was hosted at Jackson State University, where Reeves distinguished himself as an undergraduate.
The huge auditorium stage was absolutely brimming with judicial authority – from the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit through Northern and Southern Mississippi district judges to federal bankruptcy and magistrate judges.
Despite the harrowing weather, it was good to see such a fine representation from North Mississippi, including Chief Judge Michael P. Mills and judges W. Allen Pepper Jr., Sharion Aycock and Glen Davidson.
Through the program, accolades rained down upon Reeves as surely as the tumultuous elements outside pounded the roof. He even enjoyed a bit of comic ribbing from longtime friends, who remembered him as “Ba-Ba.”
Scores of special people in the audience also were recognized, especially the ones who hailed from Reeves’ home town of Yazoo City.
That Yazoo theme entwined itself through the ceremony as tightly as the Chinese kudzu growing up its post-delta hillsides.
Reeves said that years passed in his life before he ever met a lawyer.
But he came close when he helped his mother, who cleaned the offices of the Barbour Law Firm in Yazoo City.
Reeves joked of his first experience with a copying machine there.
Former U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott, who hired Reeves to work with him in that federal office and later in private practice, gave perhaps the most poignant remarks besides Reeves’.
Pigott reminded the audience, especially its youngest members, that in 1964 when Reeves was born, white supremacy was the law in Mississippi, and that Reeves’ achievements are all the more remarkable because of that history.
When it came time for Reeves to be sworn in, the honors went to now-Senior U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr., once a member of that firm for whom Reeves’ mother toiled so diligently.
In the end, Presiding Judge Louis Guirola Jr. spoke with emotion of 99-year-old Senior Judge Dan Russell Jr. of Gulfport, who despite ill health sent his best wishes for Reeves’ success on the bench.
On Saturday, Russell died.
Our courts bring us to the front rows of history. Last week’s events were true to that mission.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.