Len Blackwell, a longtime fixture in the Perkinston community, has received another in a long line of distinctions.
A member of the Brunini law firm in Gulfport, Blackwell was recently inducted into the University of Mississippi Law Alumni Hall of Fame.
Born in Brookhaven and raised in Perkinston, he earned his bachelor’s degree in history and English from the University of Mississippi in 1963 and his Juris Doctor degree in 1966. During his law school years, he was a member of the Mississippi Law Journal, the Moot Court Board and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.
Education was always at the forefront of Blackwell’s life. His father was the Dean of Men at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, then known as Perkinston Junior College, and served as Stone County Superintendent of Education.
Attending Perkinston Agricultural High School, from which he graduated in 1959, steeped Blackwell in the world of education.
“That was a wonderful experience because the high school was connected with the college so we had an elevated view of education,” he said.
The first of his family to attend Ole Miss, he got an even broader view from his time in Oxford.
“The University of Mississippi provided me with new horizons of possibility, particularly in my law school experience,” Blackwell said. “I was the first member of my family ever to be a lawyer, and being able to have a career applying, administering and using the law to help people has really been a dividend in my life, and I thank the university for that.
“The friendships I made there were friendships of a lifetime.”
Since graduating, Blackwell has established a history of service to his profession.
In 1970 he became president of the Harrison County Junior Bar. In 1972 he became a board member of the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, holding national office within the organization. From 1982-1984, he served as a member of the Mississippi Bar’s Board of Commissioners. In 1990, he was elected president of the Mississippi Bar and served on the commission that helped create the Mississippi Court of Appeals. He was a member of the first Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program Committee that adopted the first LJAP Rule, and the Mississippi Bar awarded him its Pioneer Award in 2009 for his work with that committee.
In 2000, Blackwell was appointed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to serve on the Mississippi Gaming Commission, and he was chair of that group from 2001-2004.
He has been nationally recognized as one of the best lawyers in the country in the field of gaming law, and is a member of the International Masters of Gaming Law and the International Association of Gaming Attorneys. Additionally, he has been a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates since 1987 and was president of the Mississippi Chapter in 1984.
All of that made his name a common one.
“I’ve known the name Len Blackwell longer than I’ve known the person Len Blackwell,” said Sean Courtney, a practicing attorney in Wiggins and judge of the City of Wiggins Municipal Court. “He’s that rare attorney who is well spoken of in all corners of the state.
“Len’s not only smart, he’s a hardworking, gifted attorney. But he’s much more than that; he’s a good person who cares about his community and tries to give back.”
Courtney mentioned Blackwell’s support of the arts at MGCCC as an example.
Within his community, Blackwell served as Chair of the Harrison County March of Dimes in 1972, was named Outstanding Young Man by the Gulfport Jaycees in 1973, served as a board member for the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce in 1982, was awarded the Sun Herald South Mississippi’s Top 10 Outstanding Community Leaders in 2012 and has been a communicant at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Gulfport.
He has also served as a mentor to young attorneys and provided support even without being asked.
“Len is not only a fine man, but an excellent attorney and a stellar member of the Mississippi Bar,” said Rebecca Taylor, a Wiggins attorney and former Youth Court judge. “He has reached out and helped me during some of the tougher times in my life; I didn’t even have to ask.”
Blackwell credits his own mentors as being at least partially responsible for the success he’s enjoyed.
“Because of my father’s profession, I enjoyed the company of men like Bob Newton, Boyce Holleman and Joel Blass,” he said. “I really did have good role models in Stone County.”