The law firm of Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden, a professional association, traces its roots to 1927. It was in that year that E. W. Stennett, a young Smith County native, graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law, came to Jackson, and opened a small law office on Capitol Street, a short distance west of the Governor’s Mansion.
The modern firm of Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden traces its genesis to the opening of that small office in 1927. E. W. Stennett was a sole practitioner until 1932, when he was joined by his brother, J.C. Stennett, who had graduated that year from the University of Mississippi School of Law. They began practicing together at the firm of Stennett & Stennett.
E.W. Stennett served as an officer in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, while J. C. Stennett was later appointed by the Governor as a Hinds County Chancery Judge.
In 1946, upon appointment by the Mayor of Jackson, E. W. Stennett became City Attorney, a post he would hold under three different Mayors for almost a quarter century, until 1969. As City Attorney during this period, E. W. Stennett provided legal counsel that helped chart Jackson’s growth into a thriving metropolitan area.
In 1959, Copiah County native Gene A. Wilkinson, a young Jackson Attorney who had studied at Millsaps College and who had graduated from the Jackson School of Law (now the Mississippi College School of Law), became associated with E. W. Stennett. Two years later they were joined by Erwin C. Ward, a former Mississippi State University football player, a former United States Marine Corps officer, and a 1961 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law. The three practiced together for many years under the name of Stennett, Wilkinson & Ward.
In 1970, after graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law, James A. Peden, Jr., a Fulbright Scholar and an Air National Guard officer, joined the firm.
E. W. Stennett died in 1979 at age 80, and Erwin Ward retired in 1987. The firm’s name was changed to Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden, the name under which the firm has practiced since. Gene A. Wilkinson, who was President and Chief Executive Officer of the firm, died in 2018 at age 86, after having practiced law for almost 60 years. Upon his death, James A. Peden, Jr., became the senior member and Chief Executive Officer of the firm. Mr. Peden has been practicing law for more than 48 years.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the firm’s offices were located in the Barnett Building on the South President Street in downtown Jackson. In 1976, the firm moved 100 South Congress Street in downtown Jackson and in 1997 to Crane Ridge Drive in northeast Jackson. Along with many other Jackson law firms, Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden relocated to Madison County, establishing its present offices in Legacy Park, a gated office community on Northpark Drive in the city of Ridgeland. This relocation occurred in 2005.
Over the years, the firm has engaged in a general civil practice, representing clients in such diverse fields as real estate law, local government, zoning and land planning, municipal bond matters, banking law, corporate law, insurance law, environmental law, administrative law, and wills and estate matters.
In recent years, the firm has focused its efforts on corporate law, administrative law, municipal law, and zoning and land planning. James A. Peden, Jr., has for many years held an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell. He has also been listed since 2008 in Best Lawyers in America in the fields of Land Use and Zoning. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, U. S. News and World Report listed Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden among the Best Law Firms in Mississippi.