Roy Noble Lee, retired chief justice of Mississippi Supreme Court, dies at age 99



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FOREST, Mississippi — Roy Noble Lee, who served 16 years on the Mississippi Supreme Court and retired as chief justice in 1993, died Wednesday at his home in Forest. He was 99.

Funeral services were pending with Ott & Lee Funeral Home in Forest, where he was chairman of the board.

Then-Gov. Cliff Finch appointed Lee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court in March 1976. Lee was elected to a full term later that year, and won another term in 1984. He became chief justice in 1987, and retired in January 1993.

The state Supreme Court said in a news release announcing Lee's death that he and his father, Percy Mercer Lee, are the only father and son who have both served as chief justice. Percy Mercer Lee served on the Supreme Court from 1950 to 1965. Roy Noble Lee's brother, Tom S. Lee, is a senior judge for U.S. District Court for the southern half of Mississippi.

The news release said Roy Noble Lee enjoyed turkey hunting, and he mentioned his love of the outdoors in a 1982 Supreme Court opinion that rejected some hunters' challenge to a Mississippi Commission on Wildlife Conservation rule that prohibited the use of dogs in deer hunting in some parts of Mississippi.

"Many men, including this writer, feel that a person who has never seen squirrels jump from limb to limb in the deep swamp on a frosty Fall morning; or has never heard a wild turkey gobble in April or seen him strut during mating season; or has never watched a deer bound through the woods and fields, or heard a pack of hounds run a fox, or tree a coon (raccoon); or has never hunted the rabbit, or flushed a covey of quail ahead of a pointed bird dog; or has never angled for bass or caught bream on a light line and rod, or taken catfish from a trotline and limb hook; has never lived," Lee wrote.

He also wrote in the ruling: "Present generations owe posterity the obligation to protect and conserve wildlife, a valuable and essential natural resource, in order that future generations may have game and fish for their enjoyment, pleasure and benefit."

Lee became a lawyer in 1939. He worked as an FBI agent from 1942 to 1944. He joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1944, saw battle in the South Pacific, and was honorably discharged May 4, 1946, according to a news release from the Supreme Court. Like his father before him, Lee was district attorney and circuit judge.

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