Fred L. Banks Jr. is the recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented during The Mississippi Bar’s 2021 Annual Business Session held in Sandestin.
The Mississippi Bar presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to individuals who have devoted themselves to serving the public, the legal profession, and the administration of justice over the span of their professional careers, contributing significantly to the American system of justice and to the legal profession.
After graduating from Lanier High School in Jackson, Banks attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he received his undergraduate degree in business administration and graduated cum laude from law school, second in his class, in 1968. He began a private practice in Jackson, initially serving with other lawyers in his office as local counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
In 1975, Banks was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives and was twice re-elected. During his tenure, he served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee, chairman of the House Judiciary “B” Committee and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced the appointment of Banks as one of nine members of the National Advisory Council on the Education of Disadvantaged Children.
Banks served as a member of the Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions from 1979 until 1981. In 1985, he was appointed Judge of the Seventh Circuit Court District (Hinds and Yazoo Counties). In 1991, Governor Ray Mabus appointed Banks to fill an unexpired term on the Mississippi Supreme Court. He was elected to serve the remainder of that term and re-elected to serve a full term in 1996.
In 2001, Banks retired from the Mississippi Supreme Court and joined the law firm of Phelps Dunbar. As part of his legal practice, Banks has participated in school desegregation, housing, and employment discrimination, voting rights, and other civil rights cases, as well as appellate litigation, commercial litigation, and alternate dispute resolution. He has served as town attorney for the town of Fayette, consulting attorney to the Mississippi Association of Educators, and general counsel to the Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches.