Honorable Neal Brooks Biggers Jr.

Published 4:48 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

The Honorable Neal Brooks Biggers, Jr., 88, died at his home in Oxford, Mississippi on October 15, 2023 after an extended illness. A celebration of life will be held Monday, October 23, 2023, at 2:00 P.M. in the Chapel of Waller Funeral Home in Oxford, Mississippi. Visitation will be held prior to the service beginning at 12:00 noon in West Hall of Waller Funeral Home. A graveside service will be held Wednesday, October 25, 2023, at 2:00 P.M. in Henry Cemetery in Corinth, Mississippi, with Rev. Dr. Donald Anthony Elliott officiating. Following the graveside service, a reception will be held at Vicari Italian Grill, 514 Cruise Street, Corinth, Mississippi 38834. All friends, family, and acquaintances of Judge Biggers are invited to attend both services honoring his life.

Judge Biggers was born in Corinth, Mississippi to Neal B. Biggers, Sr. and Sara Cunningham Biggers. He was a graduate of Corinth High School and Millsaps College where he received a B.A. degree in 1956.

After his Millsaps graduation, Judge Biggers enlisted in the United States Navy, subsequently graduating from Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Newport, Rhode Island. He served four years on active duty during the Cold War attaining the rank of Navy lieutenant. For a young man, he later recalled, it was the experience of a lifetime.

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Judge Biggers was the navigator and tactical coordinator on the P2V Neptune, an aircraft with nuclear bombing capability used for anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance. This search and attack aircraft hunted Soviet submarines which carried nuclear missiles and patrolled short distances from the United States coastline.

When his active duty ended, this grandson of a Methodist preacher attended the Union Presbyterian Seminary before deciding the church was not his calling. It was at the University of Mississippi School of Law, however, that he found the work that would intrigue and challenge him for the next 60 years.

In law school Judge Biggers was associate editor of the Mississippi Law Journal and president of the judicial committee. After graduating cum laude with a Juris Doctor degree, he went back home to Corinth to set up a solo law practice.

With five years of private practice experience to his credit, Judge Biggers ran for public office, winning elections as Alcorn County’s prosecuting attorney, district attorney for the First Judicial District and eventually being elected as circuit court judge for that district. In these positions he served his county and state for a combination of 20 years.

President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Biggers for the federal bench in 1984. After Senate confirmation, he began his almost 40-year career as a federal district judge in Mississippi’s Northern District.

As a federal judge, Judge Biggers presided over a number of historically significant cases including Ayers v. Fordice, Mississippi’s landmark higher education desegregation case, and Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District, a case regarding the constitutionality of school prayer.

Judge Biggers served as chief judge of the court from 1998-2000. He was a member of various councils and committees of the Fifth Circuit including the judicial council, the administrative arm governing federal courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. He also was a member of the American Judicature Society and The American Inns of Court.

In 2010 the Alumni Association of Corinth High School honored Judge Biggers as its distinguished alumnus of the year. Millsaps College presented him with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 2012.

One of his great pleasures as a district judge involved the selection and mentoring of interns and law clerks over the years. Many were from Ole Miss Law School and Mississippi College School of Law; some were from other states. All, he hoped, would become better lawyers because of their experiences in his chambers and courtroom.

Each year the University of Mississippi School of Law presents the Judge Neal B. Biggers, Jr., Constitutional Law Award to the top first-year students showing excellence in the school’s constitutional law classes.

In 2000 Judge Biggers took senior status serving as a senior district judge until his death.

Other than the law, Judge Biggers’ great passion was the game of golf. As a boy in Corinth, he caddied for his father and played the game all through high school, college and his military service. Throughout his life he regularly took trips with golfing friends, playing notable courses across the country from Florida’s Sawgrass to Torrey Pines in California. He traveled to Scotland several times to watch the Open at St. Andrews, sometimes playing golf himself at the Old Course and other renowned Scottish courses like Carnoustie.

Judge Biggers was a Presbyterian, brought up in Corinth’s First Presbyterian Church; a long-time member of Sigma Chi; and a man who cared deeply about his country and the rule of law.

He is survived by his beloved life partner, Robin Hendrickson of Oxford; his daughter, Sherron Biggers of Collierville, TN; his brother, The Rt. Reverend Jack Cunningham Biggers, Bishop Emeritus of Northern Malawi; and numerous Biggers and Cunningham cousins.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to French Camp Academy Development Office, One Fine Place, French Camp, MS 39745 or the Judge Neal B. Biggers, Jr. Constitutional Law Award, University of Mississippi School of Law, 481 Chucky Mullins Drive, University, MS, 38677.