Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Robertson passes away at age 83

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Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Lawton Robertson has passed away.

According to a release, Robertson, 83, died on Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his family at the time of his passing.

Appointed by Governor William Winter, Robertson served on the Supreme Court from 1983 through 1992. At age 42, he was the youngest justice on the court at that time.

Colleagues, friends, and family remembered Justice Robertson as a brilliant jurist, a prolific writer, and a man with interests ranging from baseball to opera.

“He was a Harvard Law graduate. He keeps the reputation,” former Justice Reuben V. Anderson said. “He was a brilliant man…and he had so many other interests, sports and the arts. He was a Renaissance man.”

Following his time on the state’s high court, Robertson practiced law for 25 years at Wise Carter, joining the firm in January 1993.

Robertson was a law professor before joining the Supreme Court. He was a member of the faculty of the University of Mississippi School of Law from 1977 through 1992. He began teaching part-time while in private practice with the Greenville firm Keady, Campbell, and Delong, then taught full-time from 1979 until his appointment to the Supreme Court. He continued to teach a legal philosophy course while serving as a justice.

The legal expert earned a degree in history at the University of Mississippi in 1962. In a 2003 oral history interview, Robertson said that his major was history by default, as it was the subject in which he had enough hours to complete a major. His other coursework was spread over interests in economics, political science, and English, and he took numerous accounting and math courses.

He worked for the college newspaper during his entire time as a student. The paper became the Daily Mississippian the year he was editor, having previously been a weekly publication. The late justice was editor during the school’s protracted fight to deny admission to James Meredith, the first Black student to be admitted to Ole Miss in September 1962, a few months after Robertson graduated.

Robertson wanted to pursue a career in journalism. He worked as a sports reporter for the Delta Democrat Times in high school and was accepted at the University of Missouri, a noted journalism school. He applied to Harvard Law “on a lark,” and was accepted, later graduating from the Ivy League school in 1965.

Visitation for the justice will be held Saturday, December 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home in Flowood. At a later date, family and friends will gather for a memorial service.

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