Rankin County Court Judge Kent McDaniel announced that he will retire on Sept. 30.
Judge McDaniel has served as Rankin County Court Judge for 24 years. Former Gov. Kirk Fordice appointed him to the Rankin County Court on Sept. 1, 1997. He has 38 years of public service. He will retire a few days after his 74th birthday.
He said, “It’s time.”
“It’s bittersweet. I love this job and I love the people,” he said. “It’s been the most wonderful thing. It’s the greatest honor. I have lived the most blessed life of anybody I’ve ever known, seen, or been around. God has just blessed me in incredible ways.”
He began his career of state public service with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics as one of the original agents in 1972. He worked undercover for three years. He then supervised investigations in 27 counties in south Mississippi.
He was Deputy Commissioner of Corrections 1979-1980. His duties included dealing with the budget and Legislative appropriations for MDOC.
In 1980, he became director of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy. He served as director until 1986. After that, he was in private law practice for about three years.
Former U.S. Attorney George Phillips appointed McDaniel as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. He served in that capacity from 1989 to 1995. He returned to the private practice of law in 1995 and was Flowood Municipal Judge from November 1995 until his appointment to the County Court bench.
Judge McDaniel served as chairman of the Conference of County Court Judges for more than 10 years. He was appointed to the Commission on Judicial Performance in January 2015. He stepped down on Aug. 13 as Commission chairman.
Judge McDaniel grew up in Sandersville in Jones County. He graduated with honors from Belhaven College in 1969, then earned a master's degree with honors from the University of Southern Mississippi. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from Mississippi College School of Law, graduating first in his class. In 2013, he was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree from Mississippi College School of Law, where he served as an adjunct faculty member for 25 years, teaching trial practice.
He served with the 20th Special Forces Group of the Mississippi Army National Guard from 1968-1973 and with the 112th MP Battalion, MANG, from 1973-1978, leaving the service with the rank of First Lieutenant.
He was a charter member and first president of the Mississippi Chorus. He sang for many years in the choir of Lakeside Presbyterian Church. He still sings, mostly solo, doing patriotic and spiritual music for church groups and seniors.
He is married to JoAnn Mitchell McDaniel. They have two sons, Jeffrey McDaniel and Jay McDaniel.
His plans for the future include playing some golf. “I’ve got golf balls to chase and I’ve got grandkids to chase, even though I’m no good at either one of them.”