Many children regard their parents as heroes. Young children look to parents with starry eyes as role models, and some follow in the footsteps of a parent by entering a similar career field.
Even so, it’s rare for a parent to directly pass the torch along to their child, especially in an elected position. However, that’s exactly what happened on the chancery court bench in Hinds County.
Patricia Wise retired in December after hearing hundreds of family law cases over her nearly 30-year career as chancery judge. On Jan. 2, her daughter, Crystal Wise Martin, began her judicial career in the same position.
“Watching my mother was a large part of the reason I became a lawyer,” Wise Martin said. “I saw the wonderful things she was doing in people’s lives.
“Fairness and honesty on the bench is the foundation of our jurisprudence, and she exemplified that and had a true heart for the position to do good for others.”
An Oxford native, Wise earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in communicative disorders. She originally worked in the school systems but wanted to make a difference in the lives of families another way.
She set her sights on more education, earning her J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law.
“I’m proud to say that all of my degrees are from the University of Mississippi,” Wise said.
During her time at the law school, Wise completed internships with Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson and Circuit Judge William Coleman, which sparked her interest in serving on the bench.
“I had an inside view of the court system, which put the desire in me to make a difference in that way,” Wise said. “Both of them were great mentors to me.”
Wise’s passion was in family law, which led her to seek a position in the Fifth Chancery Court District of Hinds County. She was elected in 1989.
Wise Martin remembered her time in high school when her mother was campaigning for the position. Wise had a unique ability in bringing an entire community together.
“It was like a family affair, and so many people came together to support her,” she said.
Wise Martin’s father, Mark Wise, is an engineer, and she began her college career by following his lead. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Spelman College and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech.
But something kept calling her back to her home state. She interviewed for a few jobs, but ultimately decided to attend law school at Ole Miss.
During her time in law school, Wise Martin served as a legal writing teaching assistant and worked with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“The law school has such a great curriculum and wonderful professors,” she said. “I had some awesome opportunities, including working in the District Attorney’s office under Attorney General Jim Hood, who was the DA at the time.”
Wise Martin graduated from the law school in 1998 and worked in her own boutique law firm, handling a little bit of everything from personal injury to family law.
Like her mother, she had a passion for family law, so she sought to make a difference from the bench.
“I enjoyed my time as a chancery court judge, and I thought Crystal was more than qualified to serve in this position, and I wanted to support her,” Wise said. “I was so pleased when she decided to run for a position that I occupied for such a long time.”
On Nov. 6, 2018, Wise Martin was elected to her mother’s seat. To mark the unique occasion, young women were invited to the Jan. 2 investiture.
“I wanted to make sure to set an example for not only Crystal’s daughter, but also for many other young girls,” Wise said. “I feel an obligation and privilege to give back to young women and offer them pearls of wisdom.”
Wise Martin took her oath of office that day, administered by her mother.
“Having my mother swear me in was so surreal and emotional,” she said. “You may think about, but for it to actually happen was a surreal moment, and it’s a testament to how good and gracious God is.”
Both women have a dedication and passion for their fields, and they encourage others to pursue their goals as well.
“I’m so gracious for the support I have received from the community and the university,” Wise said. “Success is only meaningful when you can share it with others, and I hope everyone takes every opportunity that comes before them and explore it.
“It may not be in the legal field, but everyone should work to make their dream a reality.”
Wise Martin echoed that sentiment, noting that others who came before her laid a foundation for her to pursue her goals.
“I truly am my mother’s daughter,” she said. “I appreciate all the people, including my mother, who have come before me and allowed me to dream.
“What you do in people’s lives can make a huge difference. My mother did that for 30 years, and I hope to do the same.”
By Christina Steube