Pioneer for women in law: A look at Judge Peggy Phillips’ career

"I've been a state employee since 1967 and still going strong."

LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) –  Peggy Phillips has lived many lives, but her favorite is Justice Court Judge.

With almost 50 years of experience, Peggy Phillips is one of the longest-serving Justice Court judges in the state of Mississippi.

“It’s an honor to be a judge but it’s an honor for me to be the first female judge in Lowndes County,” said Phillips.

Sworn in in 1976, she is now entering her 13th term in this elected position.

But it wasn’t a straight line to the bench for the Crawford native.

Phillips had an eclectic resume before running for office.

She’s been a switchboard operator, cattle farmer, TV technician, grocery store owner, teacher’s assistant, and even drove a school bus in the county before she made the leap into the law.

“You don’t have to be an attorney to be a justice-court judge. We’re the people’s court. People have access to talk to us,” said Phillips.

You may not have to go to law school or even have a college degree to serve as a justice judge, but what you do need is a heart to serve your community.

“I said I’d be available. I’d be dedicated. I’d be honest and I’d be fair. And I’ve been available — I still have people come to my house now. The other night at 9 o’clock. Somebody come knocking on my door. I just let ’em know you have to come to justice court, we don’t do processing at home anymore,” said Phillips. “Age is just a number, that’s all it is.”

Change was the inspiration that sparked Phillip’s judicial career.

The 1970s…seem so far away from today, yet so similar in a way.

“I saw so much injustice for people of color and I just didn’t like what I saw. I said there’s got to be a change,” said Phillips.

Phillips said her faith in God has guided her every step on the path of justice.

“I open my court with prayer. And I ask God to guide my decisions. When I lay my head down at night, I don’t have any doubt of what I’ve done that day,” said Phillips.

48 years down, how many more to go?

“Every day, somebody say ‘Well you still gonna be there’? I say well one day at a time, that’s all you can guarantee. You’re not guaranteed tomorrow. God will give me the knowledge to know when it’s time to go home,” said Phillips.

But as long as she has those “tomorrows”, for now, Judge Peggy Phillips plans to spend them seeing justice is served.

“It’s been a good life for me,” said Phillips.

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