Eugene L. Fair, Jr.
Retired Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Love Fair, Jr. of Hattiesburg, Mississippi died Thursday, Dec. 3rd. He was 74.
Judge Fair retired from the Mississippi Court of Appeals in December 2018 after seven years of service. Prior to that he spent five years as a Chancellor on the 10th Chancery Court of Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River and Perry counties. His colleagues on the Mississippi Court of Appeals were saddened at the news, commenting on his robust knowledge of the law, always welcoming and affable demeanor, and profound love of family and friends. There is no doubt to those closest to him that his time on the bench were the most rewarding of his professional life and that Judge Fair, honored by the opportunity to serve, felt deeply called to uphold the noble purpose of the judiciary.
Previous to this, Judge Fair engaged in the private practice of law in Hattiesburg for 34 years. During that time, he tried cases in 57 courthouses across the state (putting hundreds of thousands of miles on various vehicles over the course of his life as a result.) While in private practice, he also served by appointment as a special master in Chancery Court and as a guardian ad litem representing the interests of children in Youth Court. He was admitted to practice law in all state courts, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Texas, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Appointed to the Mississippi Ethics Commission in 1984, he served for 20 years, including 19 as vice-chair. Judge Fair served several terms as an officer of both the Young Lawyers Section of the Mississippi Bar and the South Central Mississippi Bar Association culminating in terms as president of both prestigious groups. Additionally, he held numerous leadership positions in the Mississippi Bar, including two terms on the Board of Bar Commissioners. He was later inducted as a Fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation in 1981 and was a Charter Life Fellow of the Young Lawyers Section of the Mississippi Bar.
Judge Fair spent his youth and formative years in Louisville, MS. Later attending the University of Mississippi, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. During college, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and was editor of The Daily Mississippian twice. It first became a five-day-a-week newspaper during his initial term. His entrance into the world of journalism was at the age of 15 as a newspaper stringer. He then moved on to calling in sports scores and writing obituaries which ultimately culminated in freelance work for the Clarion-Ledger, the now defunct Jackson Daily News, the Meridian Star, the Associated Press, and United Press International.
He was a member of the 1966 undergraduate Hall of Fame at Ole Miss and in law school was on the board of the Mississippi Law Journal. One of his proudest and oft-recounted memories was of his role in escorting then U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy during his 1966 visit to the University of Mississippi and hearing his ensuing speech. To his family and friends, this was clearly a formative moment in Judge Fairís young life, granting him deeper insight into the potent role that law plays in society when wielded to protect those at risk of falling to the wayside. Much of his underlying core values displayed later in life can be traced back to these early influences forged during such a tumultuous time for our region and country.
After he earned his law degree in 1968, he served for four years on active duty with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps during the Vietnam War, earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He spent two years as chief legal officer at the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas and was a reservist in the Jackson Naval J.A.G. Reserve Unit for five years.
He was an Eagle Scout, having attended the 50th anniversary National Boy Scout Jamboree in 1960, among other national Scouting events, and has remained active in the Pine Burr Area Council Scouting activities, mentoring younger scouts by teaching relevant lessons on citizenship and the legal system. He later received the Silver Beaver Award from the Pine Burr Area Council in recognition for his distinguished service in this regard. Judge Fair was also a trustee, elder and Sunday School teacher at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg. As a congregant, he also served as chairman of deacons and church treasurer for 18 years.
Judge Fair is preceded in death by his parents Eugene L. Fair and Helen Robertson Fair Bennett and his stepfather, C.P. Bennett. He is survived by his wife, Estella Galloway Fair, Ph.D. of Hattiesburg, daughters Melissa Fair Wellons, M.D. of Nashville, TN, Julia Fair Myrick of Bainbridge Island, WA, his brother George R. Fair of Jackson, sons-in-law Daniel R. Myrick and John C. Wellons, III, M.D., and four grandchildren: Tucker Myrick (15y), Jack Wellons (15y), Fair Wellons (12y), and Abigail Myrick (11y).
In final summation, Judge Fairís life serves as a reminder of the considerable impact that one person may have on their community and those who live in it. He lived a robust life of service, knew genuine joy and grief during his 74 years, and was gifted with a keen knowledge and earnest love for the law. Through it all, he remained firmly rooted in his lifelong fundamental beliefs in God, family, and country. A constant ethical compass for us all, he never tended towards self-righteousness and was always capable of discerning the wisest path with clarity and purpose (and, just perhaps, a story). He loved and in turn was deeply loved by his wife, his daughters, his parents, his brother and his large extended family. While his direct presence will be sincerely missed, Gene Fairís legacy will well outlast his transitory time on this earth through the words, deeds, and lives lived by those of us fortunate enough to have known and been influenced by him.
His funeral service will be limited to immediate family due to current pandemic restrictions but will be livestreamed on Facebook Live at 2pm on Tuesday, December 8th. A direct internet link will be accessible via the church website (<http://www.westminster-hattiesburg.com/>) or Facebook page (<https://www.facebook.com/wpchattiesburg>).
Because of his lifelong love of his church and of Scouting, in lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg or the Pine Burr Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.