By LYNN LOFTON
Well known attorney, community leader and former Ole Miss football standout Arthur F. “Skip” Jernigan, Jr. is the new chairman of the board of trustees of Baptist Health Systems. A nine-year member of the board, he is a partner with Jernigan, Copeland & Anderson law firm in Ridgeland.
Jernigan, who’s practiced law since 1972, says the role of the hospital board is evolving with more involvement than in previous years. “It’s much like a for-profit board of directors in that we review financial statements, approve budgets, approve hiring of the management team and set policy,” he said. “The board is more engaged since the Affordable Health Care Act was enacted. We recognize the importance of our role in furthering the mission of our organization as leaders in health care and followers in faith.”
The new board president serves on a number of Jackson area boards and says of his appointment as chairman of Baptist Health Systems, “It’s an opportunity to give something back to the community, to participate in a wonderful organization and in some small way ensure good quality health care. We want another one hundred years for this organization.”
A native of Jackson and graduate of Murrah High School, Jernigan was a noted athlete at the University of Mississippi where he was a four-year letterman for the varsity football team. During that time, he earned All SEC recognitions and a spot in the 1971 Hula Bowl All Star Game. In 2011, he was inducted into the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame. He learned some valuable life lessons from his high school and college football days. “I learned self discipline and to work hard and be good at what you do; that you have to earn what you get and that no one will give it to you,” he said. “Coach Jack Carlisle had a huge impact on my life.”
He sort of backed into a legal career. There were no lawyers in his family and he thought while growing up that he would always play football or baseball. However, things changed when he was asked to stay on at Ole Miss after graduation to be an assistant football coach. “I thought for a while I would be a football coach, but someone told me there are two kinds of football coaches — those who are fired and those who’re going to be fired,” he recalls. “The dean of the law school convinced me that a legal education would be a good thing to have, so I stayed at Ole Miss three years and went to law school.”
In no way has Jernigan regretted that decision. “It’s a heck of a way to earn a living, and after 42 years of practicing law, I still think so,” he said. “People are amazing and I enjoy helping them with the variety of things that are presented to me.”
He has a passion for adoption law and part of his pro bono service to the Mississippi Bar and Jackson community is to represent indigent parties on behalf of Mission First in the area of adoption law. “With adoption cases everyone is a winner,” he says. “If I wasn’t a lawyer, I could see myself running an adoption agency, or maybe being a hunting guide.”
Other boards on which Jernigan serves include the YMCA, Mississippi Chapter National Multiple Sclerosis Society, University of Mississippi Alumni, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mississippi Children’s Home Society and Family Services Association.
People might be surprised to learn that this Ole Miss stalwart was a Mississippi State fan a long time ago. “That was before I signed to play football at Ole Miss,” he said, “and our family supported all the schools.”
Jernigan and his wife Judy are the parents of two sons, Jay, a Nationwide Insurance agent, and Guy, who works in home remodeling. Guy is the father of nine-year-old Kayla and playing with her is one of Skip Jernigan’s favorite forms of relaxation in addition to playing golf, hunting and fishing. “I’m blessed to have a good wife and family,” he said.
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