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Founding Youth Court Judge Mills Barbee was honored by friends and colleagues in a ceremony Tuesday during the dedication of the new juvenile justice center named in his honor.

The newly-unveiled DeSoto County Juvenile Court Justice Center has been named in honor of Mills Barbee who is considered the founder of the county's juvenile court system known as Youth Court.

A large crowd turned out to laud Barbee and tour the new juvenile court facilities which includes a 5,300 square-foot courtroom, judges' chambers and offices.

DeSoto County Supervisor Lee Caldwell lauded Barbee and the renovation of the juvenile justice center, which formerly housed the old DeSoto County Jail.

The Juvenile Justice Center is linked to the DeSoto County Juvenile Detention Center which was completed in 2006. Urban Arc architects designed the new facility, which was constructed by Murphy & Sons.

"They've been working on the building for nine months now," Caldwell said. "It's like birthing a baby."

Youth Court Judge Craig Treadway paid tribute to Barbee, as did County Court Judge Allen Couch and a host of officials. Sitting Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Robert P. "Bobby" Chamberlin was also on hand for the occasion. District 3 Supervisor Bill Russell and others spoke of Barbee's efforts on behalf of youth rehabilitation.

"He (Barbee) is the father of Youth Court in DeSoto County," Treadway said. "I think it was very appropriate that it was named for Mills. I'm the fourth judge," added Treadway of the line of succession to the post which can be traced all the way back to Barbee. "He started the youth court in DeSoto County. There is no person more special to youth court than Mills Barbee. Now we'll have a state-of-the-art facility. You won't find a better one in the United States of America."

Before juveniles had to be walked through the public courthouse on the square to youth court adjacent to the adult courtroom.

Now juveniles can be escorted straight from the detention center to the courtroom, out of view of the public.

"The access it gives to juveniles means that we can give more court dates," Treadway said.

The new courtroom seats between 50-75 individuals, which, according to Treadway is a perfect size.

"Youth court is different because you can exclude those who would not normally attend," Treadway said.

For his part, Barbee, a humble man of few words, thanked the large crowd for coming out and expressed deep gratitude for the naming of the facility in his honor.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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