State Supreme Court justices remember Scalia as friend, avid hun - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

State Supreme Court justices remember Scalia as friend, avid hunter

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia addresses the crowd during the dedication of the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia addresses the crowd during the dedication of the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Those who knew him say Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was a kind but firm man, with a love for hunting and good debates.

The longest-serving member of the nation's highest court also had a fondness for Mississippi, one he expressed often during his annual visits.

"Most people will never know what we just lost. I mean, literally, what I said earlier: the greatest mind, legal mind, I've ever met," said James Smith Jr, who served as chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court until 2008.

Smith said learning of Scalia's death hit him like a bolt of lightning.

He first met Scalia through Judge Charles Pickering and got the chance to accompany them on several hunts over the course of many years.

"Got to know him quite well. He spent the night here with us before. [We] turkey hunted. Had a great experience the last hunt with him, although he didn't kill. That's not what it's about. He just loved life, loved the outdoors," Smith said.

Scalia came to the Magnolia State more than once a year, Smith said, pursuing turkey and deer, and even doing a bit of bass fishing.

"He caught a few fish, and what I was impressed with, he cleaned the fish. We bagged them up for him, he froze them, and he took them back on the aircraft with him to Washington, D.C.," said state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr.

He first crossed paths with Scalia in 2011 when the man came to Jackson to dedicate the new Supreme Court building.

"He would always be free to meet with the students. He wasn't just here, he wouldn't just speak, but he added something and left something intellectually stimulating and productive for anyone around him," Waller said.

Smith said Scalia's opinions may have stoked the fire of political debate, but the man never took sides with any party.

"To him, it wasn't political at all. Never was, not one single time. It was a matter of interpretation of the Constitution," Smith said. "The brilliance of his mind in the legal profession and what we've had taken from us: it's almost impossible to replace it."

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