JACKSON, Miss. ( Associated Press) — James B. Tucker, an attorney who prosecuted corrupt Mississippi public officials during a 30-year career with the Justice Department, died Tuesday. He was 82 years old.
his death Butler was announced Wednesday by Snow Law Firm, where he was a partner in private practice after leaving government service. Tucker had retired from the firm. The cause of death was not included in the declaration.
Tucker earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1966. After a few years of private practice in Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, he moved to Washington in 1971 to become a traveling attorney for the US Department of Justice.
Tucker returned to Jackson in 1972 as an assistant U.S. attorney for the southern part of the Mississippi. For almost 20 years, he was the head of the criminal division of the district.
High-profile cases conducted by Tucker included prosecutions of dozens of Mississippi County supervisors and private contractors during Operation Pretense in the 1980s, an investigation into corrupt purchasing practices.
Ray Mabus was the state auditor in the mid-1980s and worked with federal officials on Operation Pretense. He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Tucker was “the rarest of public servants—he always tried to do the right thing.”
“He went in search of public corruption. He didn’t avoid it,” said Mabus, a Democrat who served one term as governor and eight years as Navy secretary, as auditor. “It made them feel bad that people were stealing public money.”
In 2000, Tucker was appointed to serve as the US Attorney for Southern Mississippi. When Tucker retired from the Justice Department in 2001, then-U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran praised him.
“I have great respect and appreciation for the way James Tucker has fulfilled the important responsibilities of his job,” Cochran said., a Republican. “He was a true professional in every respect. He was utterly honest and trustworthy, and he was determined to bring justice to those who violated the laws of the United States.”
In addition to his work at Butler Snow, Tucker spent more than 20 years as an assistant professor at the Mississippi College School of Law.
He was an officer of the US Naval Reserve’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps and retired as a captain.
Tucker was inducted into the University of Mississippi Law School Hall of Fame in 2016. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern Mississippi has a staff award named in his honor, the James B. Tucker Award for Superior Prosecutorial Service in Criminal Justice.