PASS CHRITIAN, Miss--Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice William Joel Blass has died. A news release from the Supreme Court says he passed away Tuesday, four days past his 95th birthday.
Blass served on the court in 1989 and 1990. He was appointed by Gov. Ray Mabus and was defeated in 1990 by Justice Chuck McRae.
The news release detailed Blass' long and distinguished career. He received his law degree from Louisiana State University. He began practcicng law in Louisiana in 1940 and served as a Special Agent of the Louisiana Crime Commission under the office of the Louisiana Attorney General. He was admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1947 and joined a firm in Wiggins before joining the Ole Miss faculty as a law professor in 1965. He later served as dean.
Blass was also a former state lawmaker, serving in the Mississippi House from 1953 to 1960.
Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. said Blass' career should be an example to others.
“He was a great legal scholar and outstanding leader of the bar for many years. He lived professionalism by example and was an inspiration to attorneys and judges.”
Chancery Judge Jim Persons of Gulfport said Justice Blass touched all parts of the legal profession – lawyer, law professor, legal scholar and judge.
He represented Stone County in the Mississippi Legislature for seven years. He was much admired by the bench and bar “for his civility, integrity, honesty and forthrightness and his legal ability and intellect,” said Persons. “He had a brilliant mind. He was a good man and a good lawyer.”
Former Mississippi Bar President Leonard “Len” Blackwell II of Biloxi said, “He was very progressive and was one of my heroes and inspired me to go on and study law....He was a leader in racial reconciliation” in the 1950s. “He was a real stalwart and an example of what a lawyer ought to be,” Blackwell said. “He was a real progressive and believed in the rule of law.”