Chapter History

Experienced Trial Lawyers and Judges

44 Years of MS-ABOTA

The Mississippi Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) was established in 1983, quickly growing in membership and achieving national leadership recognition.

The Founding of the Mississippi Chapter

During the Mississippi Bar Convention in Biloxi, 1980, Walter W. Eppes, Jr. was approached by Stanford Young, Esq. of Waynesboro, Mississippi, and Michael Lacagnina of California about the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). At the time, ABOTA was a highly successful organization of trial attorneys primarily based in California, and it was looking to expand into Mississippi by recruiting new members. Eppes and James E. Upshaw filed applications for membership, which were approved in 1981, making them the second and third ABOTA members in Mississippi, following Young who was approved in 1980.

Establishing the Chapter

The goal of the Mississippi chapter was to maintain an equal distribution of members between the plaintiffs’ bar and the defendants’ bar. Membership was limited to one-half of one percent of the state bar, capping it at 26 members at the time. The Chapter was formally chartered at a dinner meeting in Jackson on December 16, 1983, with 11 charter members: Upshaw, Eppes, Mayhew, Dorrance Aultman, Bill Dukes, John Hunter, Bill Liston, Tom McNeese, Leonard Melvin, Charles Merkel, and Grady Tollison.

Leadership and Growth

Upshaw was elected the first president, with Eppes serving as secretary, and Melvin as the National Delegate. In December 1984, McNeese was elected President, Tollison became vice president, Mayhew was appointed secretary, and Melvin continued as the National Delegate. By 1985, membership had grown to 17, including new members Jimmie Reynolds, Dan Self, Bob Upchurch, Scottie Welch, Sam Wilkins, and Roy Williams. In 1985, former Governor and Chief Judge of the 5th Circuit, J.P. Coleman, was inducted as an Honorary Diplomat. By 1987, the Chapter’s membership increased to 22, with a balanced distribution geographically and between the plaintiff and defense bar.

Achievements and Distinctions

Since its charter in 1983, members of the Mississippi chapter have achieved notable distinctions within ABOTA. W. Scott Welch, III served as president of ABOTA, and La’Verne Edney currently serves as the national president of ABOTA.