Colleagues pay tribute to Lucius Dabney Jr., one of Vicksburg’s last ‘Southern gentlemen’

Published 10:21 am Thursday, August 18, 2022

Lucius Dabney’s friend and colleague, Vicksburg Chancery Court Judge Vicki Roach Barnes, recalled a time when she and Dabney had a conversation concerning retirement.

Barnes said Dabney told her his father had once said to him, “You retire when you’re dead.”

Dabney, 96, died on Aug. 11, 2022, and like his father had instructed, in life he never retired.

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Born in Vicksburg on Nov. 23, 1925, Dabney attended Virginia Military Institute, where he studied electrical engineering. However, prior to graduating from VMI, in 1944 he was called to serve in World War II.

Upon returning home in 1946, Dabney enrolled in law school at the University of Mississippi.

Following graduation in 1949, he returned to Vicksburg where he began his practice at the family law firm Dabney and Dabney — the oldest family-owned firm in Mississippi and one of the oldest in the U.S., founded in 1794.

Described by all who knew him, Dabney was first and foremost known as a “Southern gentleman.”

“He was just a Southern gentleman,” Barnes said. “And we don’t have many of those anymore.”

Barnes and former Circuit Court Judge and practicing attorney Frank Vollor said this integrity also carried over into the courtroom when Dabney was trying cases.

“He never forgot he was dealing with people, and that they were entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” Vollor said. “And he did that with the opposing counsel and the opposing parties and with everyone involved in the legal process. He was an ultimate gentleman in all of his duties.”

Vicksburg attorney Ken Rector said Dabney was “a gentleman’s gentleman,” and recalled how he was “kind and helpful to young lawyers.”

“He was a teacher at heart and so brilliant in so many ways. He was the kind of lawyer you could call up and say, ‘Lucius, what do you know about this?’ and he would tell you what he knew, which would always be something,” Rector said.

No only would Dabney lend his support on the initial call, but Rector also said he would follow up with either a call or visit.

“And he did that for everybody,” Rector said.

In addition to Dabney being a “legal scholar,” Rector said, he was also an “unbelievable mechanic.”

Rector recalled another story where he found Dabney lying on the floor in Judge James E. Nichols’ office working on a dorm-style refrigerator.

“Dabney had taken the thing apart because it wouldn’t work. There were pieces of the refrigerator all over the place,” he said. “But I want you to know, I went back the next Monday morning for something else in his (Nichols’) court, and that refrigerator was put all back together and working perfectly.”

Knowledge of the law and mechanics were not the only two fields of Dabney’s expertise.

Rector said he was also a Bible scholar. For those who tuned in to WQBC on Sunday mornings, they were able to listen in to the Dabney Bible Class.

Dabney, a member of Gibson Memorial United Methodist Church, taught the men’s Bible Class on Sunday mornings for around 50 years, known affectionately as the Dabney Bible Class.

The Rev. Mitch Cochran, who is the minister at Gibson, was well aware of Dabney’s devotion to the church and others.

“He would go out of his way to help even doing little things like making sure there was coffee here every Sunday morning,” Cochran said. “But he never wanted to be in the spotlight.”

Cochran as well as Rector, Barnes and Vollor, all spoke of Dabney’s memory, his attention to detail and his intelligence.

“In his office, there are law books and all kinds of books,” Cochran said. “And of all the people I have ever known, he (Dabney) has probably read every single word of every book and if you asked him a question, he could go pull out that book, turn to the page and point to where it is. He had that kind of mind.”

However, Cochran said, Dabney never flaunted his knowledge or expertise, and there were even moments when he would carve out time for young people.

Both Barnes and Cochran said Dabney spent a few minutes with their sons at key times in their lives. For Barnes’s son, it had been at his father’s funeral. For Cochran’s son, Andrew, it was after a baccalaureate service held at the church.

“He was like that with a lot of people. And I think that is the nicest gift you can give somebody,” Cochran said, referring to the time Dabney spent with others.

Dabney was one of those who was a big figure in town and beyond, Cochran said.

“Everyone felt like they had a personal connection with him. He could be at home with leaders of government or with a kindergarten class. He had the same mannerisms and same presence with them and paid everyone an equal amount of attention, and I just think that says a lot about who he was,” Cochran said.

In addition to practicing law most of his adult life and teaching a men’s Bible study, Dabney also belonged to many civic organizations and clubs, which included being a founding member and on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Vicksburg Military Park and Campaign, a member of the General Bar, Commercial Law League of America, American Lawyers Company, Insurance Bar, Army Navy Club, Vicksburg Amateur Radio Club, Warren County Bar Association (a past President), Mississippi Bar Association (a past President), Gibson Memorial United Methodist Church, Wahabi Shriners, American Legion Post #003 and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was also previously a member of the National Creditors Bar Association (previously NARCA) and A.M. Best Company, Inc.

Dabney also held his Insurance Adjuster License and Real Estate License.

Awards that were presented to Dabney during his life include the Mississippi Defense Lawyers of America (MDLA) 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award, honored with a 50-year recognition plaque from the Society of American Military Engineers for service and membership to their organization where he was a member since March 1950, recognition from the American Legion in 2005 for “Dedicated Service to the Veterans Day Programs”, recognition from the senior law students of Mississippi College, School of Law, in appreciation for teaching their Law Office Economics in 1977. He was admitted to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1950-1992 as a qualified attorney and counselor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Dabney is preceded in death by his parents, Inez Cherry Dabney and Lucius Bryan Dabney Sr.; his son, John Gee, Jr., and his son-in-law David Bliss, Sr. He is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Allene Hallberg Dabney; his children, Bryan (Lisa) Dabney, Bill (Susan) Dabney, Sara Bliss, Emily (James) Dabney, and Cherry (Scott) Robbins; his grandchildren, David (Dawn) Bliss, Jr., Billy (Virginia) Dabney, Ava Bliss, Thomas Dabney, Will Robbins, Devon Dabney and Emme Robbins; and great-grandson, Dalton Bliss. He is also survived by his close devoted friends Yvette and Danny Jansen, Shirley and Freddie Rush, Ed Shilling, and the “Friday Night Supper Club,” including Cathy and Ray Duncan; Sandra and Lynn Bilbo; Michael Bilbo and his childhood friend George Downing.

A memorial service will be held on Sept. 10, 2022. Visitation will be held from 1 p.m. up until the time of service at 2:30 p.m. at Gibson Memorial UMC, 335 Oak Ridge Road. Memorials may be made to Gibson Memorial UMC or to the Friends of the Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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