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John Ray Skates / History of the Mississippi Supreme Court Research Collection

Identifier: M130

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of the research files and rough drafts of A History of the Mississippi Supreme Court, 1817-1948, authored by Dr. John Ray Skates.


  • 1817-1973


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

John Ray Skates, Jr. was born to John Ray and Miriam (Boykin) Skates on October 14, 1934, in Catchings, Mississippi. He attended public schools in Mississippi and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Mississippi in 1956. In December of that same year he married Kathleen Craig Barnwell. Between 1956 and 1958, he served in the United States Army and completed a tour of duty in Germany. Skates attended Millsaps College from 1960 to 1961, and then enrolled at Mississippi State University where he received his M.A. (1962) and Ph.D. (1965). While pursuing his college degrees, Dr. Skates joined the army reserve and after obtaining the rank of colonel, retired in 1986. The Skates had two sons, John and Bobby (deceased).

Dr. Skates' teaching career began in the early 1960s and continues to the present. From 1963 to 1966, he served as an instructor and later assistant professor of history at Mississippi State College for Women. In 1966, Dr. Skates and his wife relocated to Hattiesburg, Mississippi where he became assistant professor of history and later chairman of the department at The University of Southern Mississippi in 1969. After stepping down as chairman in 1978, Skates remained at U.S.M. as a professor of history, teaching in the subject areas of Mississippi, recent South, and United States military history.

In 1984, Dr. Skates travelled to Washington, D.C., where he served as historical advisor to the Department of Defense in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. From 1986 to 1988, he was a visiting professor at the Center of Military History in Washington where he completed research on the planned invasion of Japan during World War II. From 1991 to 1993, he served as visiting professor of military history at Air University, located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Dr. Skates has been active in a number of academic and professional organizations, including the Mississippi Historical Society, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Delta Kappa. In addition, Skates served as assistant editor of the Journal of Mississippi History and president of the Mississippi Historical Society.

Dr. Skates has published a number of books, chapters in edited works, and journal articles. Among these are Mississippi's Present and Past (1973); Mississippi: A History, (1979); Mississippi's Old Capitol: Biography of a Building (1990); and Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb, (1994). In 1967, the Mississippi Bar Foundation commissioned Dr. Skates to write A History of the Mississippi Supreme Court, 1817-1948 (1973).


1.2 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Research for his book, A History of the Mississippi Supreme Court, 1817-1948.


The collection is organized into two series, which are contained in three boxes.

Dr. Skates' research files constitute the first series. These files are arranged alphabetically by subject and are grouped together in five main sub- series. The first sub-series includes general information about the Mississippi Supreme Court dating between 1832 and 1948. The second sub-series deals with organization, legislation, and the history of the supreme court from its founding in 1817 through 1948. The third grouping consists of the most important cases decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court between 1817 and 1948. The fourth group of materials includes topics addressed in the Mississippi Law Journal. These subjects include legislation declared unconstitutional by the Mississippi Supreme Court, general articles on the Mississippi Supreme Court, the law reports and reporters in Mississippi, and a miscellaneous file with documents relating to the early beginnings of the legal profession in Mississippi. The fifth sub-series deals with decisions by the court on rules of constitutional construction, legislative and executive matters and decisions regarding the court itself.

While most of the file names are titled exactly the same as Dr. Skates originally provided for in his research files, several additions were made to effect better organization. The subject files created or modified include, Constitutional Convention of 1890, Journal of the Constitutional Convention of 1817, a file listing the members of the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1817-1966, a miscellaneous file, and a file containing a copy of the 1932 edition of the Mississippi State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct. The research files are general in nature and cover only the highlights of the court between 1817 and 1948; they do not provide extensive information on the individual justices who served on the court.

The second series of this collection consists of three rough drafts of the book, with each draft demonstrating definitive progress towards the final copy. These drafts can be sub-divided into four main subject areas: the court under the Mississippi Constitution of 1817; the high court of errors and appeals, 1833-1870; the court under the Constitution of 1868; and the court under the Constitution of 1890. Also included among the drafts are the biographical sketches written for each member of the Mississippi Supreme Court through 1948.

This collection may be of interest to researchers seeking information relating to the history of Mississippi's highest court.

Related Materials

Copies of books by Dr. John Ray Skates are available in the Cook, McCain, and Gulf Coast Libraries:

A Southern Editor Views the National scene: Frederick Sullens and the Jackson, Mississippi, Daily News [microform] (1965), call PN4874.S775x S54 (Cook)

A History of the Mississippi Supreme Court, 1817-1948 (Jackson, Miss.: Mississippi Bar Foundation, 1973), call number KFM7112 .S53x (McCain)

Mississippi's Present and Past (Fenton, Mich.: K.E. McRoberts, 1973), call number F341.3 .S53x (Cook, McCain, Gulf Coast)

Mississippi, A Bicentennial History (New York: Norton, 1979), call number F341 .S65 (Cook, McCain, Gulf Coast)

Mississippi History Through Four Centuries, with David G. Sansing (Jackson, Miss.: Walthall Pub. Co., 1987), call number TEXT BK Soc.St. Mississi Gr.7-12 Walthal (Cook)

Mississippi's Old Capitol: Biography of a Building (Jackson, Miss.: Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1990), call number F349.J13 S53 1990 (McCain)

Mississippi, the Study of our State, with David G. Sansing (Brandon, Miss.: Walthall Pub. Co., 1993), call number TEXT BK Soc.St. Mississ Gr.4 Walthall 19 and TEXT BK Soc.St. Mississi Gr.9-12 Walthall (Cook)

The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1994), call number D767.2 .S56 1994 (Cook)

Discovering Mississippi: A Mississippi Studies Textbook with David G. Sansing and Mary Ann Wells" (Brandon, Miss.: Walthall Publishing Company, 1995), call number TEXT BK Soc.St. Mississi Gr.7-12 Walthall (Cook)

John Ray Skates / History of the Mississippi Supreme Court Research Collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001