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Thomas Edward Royals

March 7, 1938 November 13, 2019
Thomas Edward Royals
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Obituary for Thomas Edward Royals

Thomas Edward Royals passed away on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 in Ridgeland, MS. He was 81.
Born at home on March 7, 1938 in Raleigh, Mississippi, he was the son of the late Melvin and Mary Naomi Thornton Royals.
Before he had ever met a lawyer or likely knew what one was, he announced to his older sister, Kathryn Atwood, he would be one someday. He attended Taylorsville High School, where his lanky, 6’2 frame made him a sought after football player. He opted for basketball instead, which he continued to play through college. He was elected Mr. Taylorsville High School his senior year.
In 1958 he began his studies at Millsaps College where he majored in English and was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity. In his trademark self-determined manner, he worked through college to pay his tuition, including running errands for a local attorney and fighting forest fires with the U.S. Forest Service during the summers in Priest River, Idaho.
While in college he took a writing class from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty. He and Welty became friends, and during summers, he would regularly drop off Smith County watermelons at her door in Belhaven. Welty was just one of his well-known friends – he always kept company with authors, poets and musicians, and several prominent writers sought his input on their work before it was published.
After graduating in 1962, he moved to Los Angeles, California to teach English in the public schools. He returned to Mississippi and continued teaching and coaching basketball in a Rankin Co. public school before deciding to fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.
He received his Juris Doctorate in 1969 from the University of Mississippi School of Law, beginning his 40-year long legal career. While in law school and for a short time after he worked for North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, providing a broad range of legal assistance to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
He then began working at Perry, Phillips, Crockett, Peters & Morrison in Jackson and served as first assistant district attorney Seventh Circuit, Hinds and Yazoo Counties.
In August of 1974, he opened his own practice doing primarily criminal defense work. In 2002, he formed Royals & Mayfield, PLLC, with his lifelong friend Tommy Mayfield. They practiced together until 2011, during which time he was appointed and retained as defense counsel in numerous high-profile criminal cases in state and federal courts. He firmly believed that every individual, regardless of the crime, were entitled to the presumption of innocence and competent legal representation whether they could afford it or not.
He was a member of the Hinds County, Miss. and American Bar Associations, the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Charles Clark American Inns of Court (Master). He was a founding member of the Mississippi Attorneys for Constitutional Justice.
He was named on The Best Lawyers in America list for 10 years and received Martindale-Hubbell’s highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards.
Adding to his list of skills as an attorney, writer, athlete and teacher, he had a knack for theater and music. He became involved in New Stage Theatre where he acted in several plays, including “The Runner Stumbles,” “Of Mice and Men,” and Welty’s “The Ponder Heart.”
He produced Lucinda Williams’ first album, “Ramblin’,” in Jackson in 1979 after a long friendship with her father, poet Miller Williams, whom he called a mentor. He played the guitar in his early days and sang bass in the choirs at Northminster Baptist Church and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church later in life.
He took up croquet after retiring from law in 2011 and was a dedicated and fervent member of Highlands Mallet Croquet Club.
He also became a published author, editing a collection of 12 interviews with his friend, Will Campbell, a Mississippi-born preacher, activist and author best known for his involvement with the civil rights movement. “Conversations with Will D. Campbell” was published in 2018 by the University Press of Mississippi.
His life’s most constant and unfaltering role was that of father and hero to his two daughters, Marianne Royals Wynn and Kathryn Rosamond Royals. He was adored and revered by them, for whom he gave so much during his life.
He was married to the late Martin “Marti” Howell Speights of Canton and Rita Leverette Royals of Grenada.
He is survived by his daughters, Marianne and Kathryn, grandson Andrew Thomas Mitchell, and his sisters Mary Kathryn Atwood and Helen Grace Frith.
He is predeceased by parents, sisters Patsy Lee Freeman and Ruth Leverta Thompson, and brother Roger Dale Royals.
A Service of Christian Burial will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, 305 East Capitol Street in Jackson. The family will be present for visitation in the Parish Hall from 10:00 a.m. until the hour of the service.
A graveside service will be held at 3 p.m. the same day at Eastside Baptist Church Cemetery, 1 mile east of Raleigh off Hwy 18 on Eastside Drive in Raleigh.
Memorials may be made to Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Avenue PO Box 5632 Montgomery, AL 36177, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, PO Box 1366 Jackson, MS 39215.

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Previous Events

Visitation

Monday

18

Nov

10:00 AM 11/18/2019 10:00:00 AM
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral

305 E Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39201

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral
305 E Capitol Street Jackson 39201 MS
United States

Service

Monday

18

Nov

11:00 AM 11/18/2019 11:00:00 AM
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral

305 E Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39201

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral
305 E Capitol Street Jackson 39201 MS
United States

Graveside

Monday

18

Nov

3:00 PM 11/18/2019 3:00:00 PM
Eastside Baptist Church Cemetery

Eastside Dr
Raleigh, MS 39153

Eastside Baptist Church Cemetery
Eastside Dr Raleigh 39153 MS
United States

Memorial Contribution

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral

305 E Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39201

Southern Poverty Law Center

400 Washington Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104
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