Attorney Aleita Ann Sullivan is the daughter of the late Draughn G. and Letha D. Magee. Sullivan’s paternal grandfather, Philip Magee, was one of the original settlers of Magee, Miss. Sullivan’s mother, Letha, taught the first African-American student to attend Magee Elementary in her first grade class. Draughn, Letha’s father, was a well respected sheriff in Simpson County for about twelve years. Sullivan said that her father used to say that their best neighbors were African-Americans.
Sullivan said that she has the longest continuing law practice in the county. She started out working for Willis Matthews in 1965 and then J.W. Walker in 1968. She said that it was not only tough for African-Americans but was just as tough for women back then.
Sullivan was on the University of Mississippi campus when James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi, arrived on October 1, 1962. She said that she and her husband, Wesley Sullivan, lived in an apartment behind sorority row. She remembers troops being everywhere in the aftermath surrounding Meredith’s entry to the school.
As a practicing attorney, one of Sullivan’s notable cases is the case in which she worked to close down Pinola and Harrisville schools so that the white and African-American students could be integrated. Coincidentally, the school district lines were drawn in her current office on Main Street in Mendenhall, Miss. Another one of Sullivan’s notable cases is Ferguson v. Ferguson. This case set the standard for property division for married couples in Mississippi. The standard, which was formally adopted in Mississippi in 1994, is equitable distribution. This means that property that is earned by either spouse during the marriage is divided equally between the two spouses, regardless of who holds the title, if the couple divorces.
Interview with Aleita Sullivan