STARKVILLE, Miss.--Attorney Sharon Eubanks graduated from Mississippi State University in 1976 and went on to serve the people of the nation as an advocate for consumer fairness, civil rights and fair treatment for all.
On Thursday, MSU's political science and public administration department and its student Pre-Law Society recognized Eubanks' many accomplishments by awarding her the Mississippi State University Distinguished Jurist Award.
"I loved it while I was here (at MSU). I achieved a lot and it's wonderful to see how the place has grown and changed over the years," Eubanks said. "I want to tell you, thank you for this award. This is really a meaningful moment for me, to come back here and to be honored in this way."
Selections for the honor are made by a committee of political science faculty and Pre-Law Society members. The prelaw program at MSU is one of the most respected in the Magnolia State, said Jim Rosenblatt, dean of the Mississippi College School of Law.
"More of our students come from Mississippi State than any other college," he said. "We have 24 in the first-year class. They do well; they hold leadership positions while in law school; and they go out in the community and do well.
"I like to come here early before this annual event just to thank the departments for sending us such well-prepared students."
Dr. Jerry Gilbert, MSU provost and executive vice president, introduced Eubanks. They attended MSU together in the 1970s and Gilbert emphasized that he always respected her, but never more so than after graduation, in the role she played when she served as U.S. lead counsel in the federal tobacco legislation that changed the way tobacco companies advertise, market and do business.
"Her father was a longtime smoker, as my father was a longtime smoker," Gilbert said. "Her father died of cancer probably six months before my father died of cancer while we were still students here at Mississippi State. Later, seeing what she did in her career really made me proud of Sharon, to see that she was working for our dads against the tobacco company. It was very touching and special to me."
United States v. Philip Morris USA, et. al., was the largest civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations enforcement action ever filed, and the court's decision was upheld on appeal.
"This case and my work on this case caused many personal sacrifices and professional costs," Eubanks said. "Would I do it again? Absolutely."
Over the years, Eubanks has continued to advocate nonsmokers' rights. Not only is she on the Advisory Committee for the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco, she is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.
Her 2012 book "Bad Acts" chronicles the tobacco litigation, the nine-month trial and her five years of work, from 2000 until 2005, to prove tobacco companies committed fraud on a massive scale.
"There's no finer position to have than serving the public interest … I truly believe I was representing the interests of all of you in what I was doing," Eubanks said.
After 25 years of litigating U.S. cases, both in the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, Eubanks entered private practice in 2007 as an advocate for civil rights, employment law and general public interest.
At present, Eubanks works in Washington, D.C., at her own firm, Edwards & Eubanks, a position she's extremely proud of because no one can stop her or slow her from pursuing the work she wants to do.
After she completed her undergraduate degree at MSU in 1976, Eubanks completed her law degree at Georgetown University Law Center.
"I never met a person who impressed me more than Sharon Eubanks," Gilbert said. "The moment I saw her, I was just blown away by everything she did. She had a spirit like no one else I've ever known. We knew when she was a student that she was going to be wildly successful."
For more information, contact Whit Waide Jr., faculty advisor for the Pre-Law Society, at 662-325-7860 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the society, visit http://www.pspa.msstate.edu/about/assoc/prelaw/.