Heroes, Rascals, and the Law
Constitutional Encounters in Mississippi History
Tales of a people’s great, disgraceful, and mundane constitutional encounters
James L. Robertson focuses on folk encountering their constitutions and laws, in their courthouses and country stores, and in their daily lives, animating otherwise dry and inaccessible parchments. Robertson begins at statehood and continues through war and depression, well into the 1940s. He tells of slaves petitioning for freedom, populist sentiments fueling abnegation of the rule of law, the state’s many schemes for enticing Yankee capital to lift a people from poverty, and its sometimes tragic, always colorful romance with whiskey after the demise of national Prohibition. Each story is sprinkled with fascinating but heretofore unearthed facts and circumstances.
Robertson delves into the prejudices and practices of the times, local landscapes, and daily life and its dependence on our social compact. He offers the unique perspective of a judge, lawyer, scholar, and history buff, each role having tempered the lessons of the others. He focuses on a people, enriching encounters most know little about. Tales of understanding and humanity covering 130 years of heroes, rascals, and ordinary folk—with a bundle of engaging surprises—leave the reader pretty sure there’s nothing quite like Mississippi history told by a sage observer.
Readers of all political persuasions will be entertained, enlightened, and even dumbfounded by what litigants and courts have gotten themselves into, and only sometimes out of, during 130 years of Mississippi history. The book is a triumph of storytelling.- Leslie H. Southwick, author of The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey, The Clarion-Ledger
As a law student at Ole Miss, I was easily bored with the study of constitutional law. However, I did not have the benefit of studying under a gifted storyteller like Jimmy Robertson (he taught me federal civil procedure). This collection is a delightful romp through the highs and lows of Mississippi’s struggle to govern itself.- John Grisham
Jimmy Robertson, whom I’ve long known and admired as a great and good man of the law, has produced a deeply researched legal history that has the humanity, pace, and complexity of a novel. It is built on specific episodes in the state’s past, some horrifying, some ennobling. What stands out is his grasp of the times and the people who shaped them. If you care about the state in all its complexity, put Heroes, Rascals, and the Law at the top of your reading list.- Hodding Carter III, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
Judge Robertson provides a rare conceptual view of complex historical legal issues with constitutional relevance that have occurred in Mississippi. In a skillful, scholarly, readable context, he puts people into history in an interesting storytelling style, making this book quite useful in academia from many perspectives, especially interdisciplinary teaching and learning.- Beverly Wade Hogan, President, Tougaloo College
With a multidisciplinary approach, Justice Robertson delves into the annals of early statehood to tell stories that have impacted everyday people—settlers, slaves, scoundrels, and more. The tales enrich our understanding through and beyond the Great Depression. The colorful nuggets that Robertson has found in little-used sources will encourage other researchers to dig for more.- Stephen Parks, JD, MLIS, State Librarian of Mississippi
An unknown laureate has said that no one is safe when the legislature is in session. However, in his excellent study, Robertson validates that ‘the practice of state constitutional judicial review has been bedrock for almost two hundred years’ and that ‘the caliber of state government has been enhanced, as our judges have displayed courage and practical wisdom. ’- David G. Sansing, professor emeritus of history, University of Mississippi