Being the first isn’t always easy, especially when you’re from Mississippi and when you’re black in a segregated South. Yet, that’s why the Mississippi Top 50 is proud to name Reuben Anderson to our 2020 Hall of Fame.
Born in 1943 to a bricklayer and a great-grandson of slaves, Reuben Anderson’s Mississippi then wasn’t as welcoming of a place for African-Americans as it is today. Still, young Reuben didn’t let that slow him down.
After graduating from Tougaloo College in 1965, Anderson became the first black student to graduate from the University of Mississippi’s School of Law in 1967 – 5 years after James Meredith integrated Ole Miss.
Anderson went to work practicing with the Mississippi NAACP Legal Defense Fund on desegregation and voter rights cases. In 1968, Anderson joined a private law firm, Anderson, Banks, Nichols & Stewart, where he practiced for eight years.
In 1976, Anderson was appointed as the Municipal Court Judge for the City of Jackson where he served until he was appointed to the County Court in Hinds County, the County Circuit Court, and then the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals – each one as first for an African American.
The pinnacle of his first came in 1985 when Mississippi Governor William Allain appointed Anderson to the State Supreme Court.
In 1991, Judge Anderson retired from the bench to return to private practice with Phelps Dunbar LLP. But his firsts weren’t over quite yet.
Anderson was chosen as the first African American president of the Mississippi Bar Association in 1997, and in 2007, he was presented the Mississippi Bar Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2009, Anderson was inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame and two years later into the University of Mississippi School of Law Hall of Fame.
Anderson has served as Chairman of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and was one of its major fundraisers during its development.
And when Mississippi needed someone to lead the Commission to put forward a new state flag, Judge Anderson was appointed by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and named chairman by the Commissioners to guide the process. As the Flag Commission wrapped up its work recently, Anderson offered inspiring words that drove the Commission’s work home.
Judge Reuben Anderson’s life of firsts is truly an inspirational story, both for him and the State of Mississippi, and that is why we are proud to name him to the 2020 Mississippi Top 50 Hall of Fame.
Mississippi Top 50 is an annual list of the people who are judged to be the most influential leaders in the state. This bipartisan selection of leaders comes from the ranks of elected and appointed officials, economic development professionals, business, media and government affairs. The awards are sponsored by Entergy Mississippi, Atmos Energy, Mississippi Farm Bureau, Capitol Resources, Tower Loan and The Payne Group and awardees were nominated through an open process. Follow MSTop50 on Twitter @MSTop50 or on Facebook to keep up with news and updates about MSTop50 winners and events.