Peden Provides Scholarship Assistance in Local Government Law

OXFORD, Miss.–When James A. “Jeep” Peden, Jr. decided to give back to his alma mater, the University of Mississippi School of Law, providing scholarship assistance seemed to be the right choice.

Peden, a member of the Law School Class of 1970, recently established the Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden Scholarship at the School of Law to honor his Jackson law firm. The scholarship will provide a stipend each year to both a second-year and a third-year student. Each recipient will be selected by the dean and faculty of the School of Law on the basis of academic achievement, leadership, interest in local government law and need.

The recipient of several prestigious scholarships himself, Peden said he recognizes the value of educational funding.

“I was very fortunate to receive a number of scholarships which paid for my higher education,” he said. “I always felt a debt to those who gave me that scholarship money. I want to help other students do what I had the opportunity to do.”

Peden began his collegiate career as a holder of a prestigious Carrier Scholarship at Ole Miss. He was first in his class, graduating in 1966, and received a Fulbright Scholarship to study British government and politics at the University of Bristol in England in 1966-67.

He then went on to accept a Ford Foundation Law Fellowship in 1967 upon entering the UM School of Law.

“I was torn between applying to law school or getting a doctorate in history or political science,” Peden said. “Receiving the Fulbright gave me post graduate experience outside the state, so I knew I wanted to come back to Ole Miss.”

While in law school, Peden served on the editorial board of the Mississippi Law Journal. Upon his 1970 graduation,he joined the firm now known as Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden and served on the staff of then-Lt. Gov. William Winter, who later was elected as Mississippi’s governor.

Peden’s law firm has a long connection with local government law as well as with zoning and land use issues.

“The late E.W. Stennett, a 1927 graduate of the law school, and Gene Wilkinson, currently a senior member of the firm, both served long terms under mayors in Jackson — Stennett as city attorney for more than twenty years and Wilkinson as chairman of the Civil Service Commission for more than three decades,” he said.

Peden himself began very early in his career working on zoning, land use and local government law issues, and developed a specialty in these areas. He has appeared before the Mississippi Supreme Court in 16 zoning appeals.

This experience, coupled with others gained in law school, inspired some of the characteristics Peden desires in scholarship recipients, who must be an outstanding in the areas of zoning, land use and local government law.

“My local government law professor was Robert Khayat,” Peden said. “I was in the first class he taught, a municipal law class when I was a second year law student. He helped spur an interest in local government law.

“I’ve never seen a college administrator or faculty member who related so well to people,” the alumnus said.

Aside from his work at his firm, Peden has been active in the Mississippi Bar, serving as president of the Young Lawyers Division, president of the Fellows of the Young Lawyers of the Mississippi Bar, chairman of the Mississippi Law Institute, bar commissioner for the Seventh Circuit Court District and charter member of the Governor’s Judicial Nominating Committee.

In addition to his illustrious legal career, Peden devoted more than 30 years of his life to the Mississippi Air National Guard, serving as staff judge advocate at the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson for 14 years and then as staff judge advocate at Air National Guard state headquarters for 11 years before retiring in 1999.  Upon retirement, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He is a graduate of the Air War College.

Peden has been listed for many years in Best Lawyers in America in the specialties of Land Use and Zoning Law. Since 2009, he has served as an adjunct professor at the Mississippi College School of Law, where he teaches the course on Land Use Controls.

To contribute to the endowment for the Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden Scholarship at the University of Mississippi School of Law, individuals and organization can mail a check made payable to the University of Mississippi Foundation with the fund noted in the memo line to the UM Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655. Online gifts can be made at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.