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District Judge Pepper dies at age 70

JACKSON — U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr., appointed to the bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, died yesterday.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports Pepper died about 3:45 p.m. after a heart attack at St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson. He was 70 years old. A spokeswoman for the Northern District of Mississippi’s federal court later confirmed Pepper’s death.

“The Northern District has lost a judge of impeccable character and a man of great personality. He was the most fundamentally decent man whom I have ever known. He was a dear friend and a beloved colleague. We will not soon get over Allen’s passing,” said Chief Judge Michael P. Mills, in a statement released by the court late yesterday.

“He was a good friend, a wonderful person,” Mills told the newspaper. “His loss will be felt all over Mississippi.”

Pepper, a Belzoni native, earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi.

Donna Barnes, of Tupelo, a judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, said Pepper’s “service to the bench, the bar and the public was exemplary.”

Mills said he and the other three judges would divide Pepper’s case load with special priority to the criminal cases. Pepper can be replaced only by a presidential nomination and U.S. Senate approval.

Pepper’s survivors include his wife, Virginia, and a son, William A. Pepper III.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

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