Judge King credits Dr. King for his successful life story|[1/16/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 16, 2006

To illustrate that what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said could be done can be done, Mississippi’s top appeals court judge told his own story in Vicksburg today.

Chief Judge Leslie D. King of the Mississippi Court of Appeals was the guest speaker for about 300 people at a Vicksburg Convention Center breakfast today marking state and federal holidays on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

&#8220I’ve been privileged to be near the front on many of those changes,” said Judge King, talking about the progressive removal of legal barriers to black education and economic progress that fell as an Atlanta minister worked for civil rights starting in the 1960s.

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Judge King also credited his parents, grandparents and many people he had never known with making his career possible.

In addition to the annual scholarship breakfast of the Omicron Rho Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Vicksburg will have a parade and banquet this afternoon and tonight. The parade is a first.

All federal, state, city and many other offices are closed for the holiday, created by Congress and President Reagan. Concurrently, Mississippi observes today as the birthday of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Judge King was one of the first black people to enter as a freshman and graduate from the University of Mississippi. He went on to earn a law degree at Texas Southern University and then to become one of the first 17 black people elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, in 1979. He was elected to the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 1994 and became its first black chief judge in 2004.

He told the audience that a way of honoring Dr. King’s legacy today would be to &#8220give up your self, your time and your talents to those who follow behind you.”

&#8220Of the six who started, only three of us completed the process,” King said of his entrance to Ole Miss, after graduating from Coleman High School in Greenville in 1966.

James Meredith entered Ole Miss in 1962 but not as a freshman. The integration of the school was opposed by state and school officials and federal troops were called to the campus to quell riots, in which two people were killed.

King said he had originally planned to go to the University of Denver, but the death of his father when he was a high school senior caused him to look instead to in-state schools. His original choice was to test the self-reliance and independence he said his parents had instilled in him.

As it turned out, he said, even though Ole Miss was much closer to home, he learned more there than he ever could have at the Colorado school.

&#8220The University of Mississippi existed in a world all of its own and it was, figuratively speaking, a million miles away,” King said.

Once in the Legislature King served as vice-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and said he expected to assume the chairmanship. Though disappointed about not being elected to that post, he did win election to a post he said he never would have sought otherwise – judge of the appeals court.

The parade starts at 3 p.m. downtown and a 7 p.m. communitywide program follows at Vicksburg Auditorium, with Brig. Gen. Robert Crear, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division, as guest speaker.