Federal judicial nominee, Charles Pickering, got a warm welcome from South Mississippi lawyers Friday afternoon.
President Bush re-nominated Pickering in January for a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats defeated the nomination last year, after they accused Pickering of being racially insensitive.
While he faces an uncertain confirmation in Washington, the Mississippi native enjoys plenty of support here at home.
"I see folks that I served with in the legislature, folks that I was in law school with, and it's good to have an opportunity to be with you," said Charles Pickering, after he was greeted by a standing ovation from South Mississippi lawyers.
Pickering was among friends at this meeting, unlike the crowd he faced during last year's contentious committee hearing.
He declined an invitation to speak at the luncheon last year, since nominees are discouraged from public speaking while their nomination is pending. He agreed to this later date, not knowing how things would play out.
"I assumed I would either be confirmed or that my nomination would no longer be pending before the United States Senate. I grossly underestimated Washington's ability to prolong things into infinity," he joked.
Many of the lawyers who know Charles Pickering say he's a good man who was unfairly treated.
Former Biloxi mayor, Danny Guice Sr., has known Pickering for years.
"He's a fine gentleman. And I really think many of the things that had been said just weren't true," said Guice.
The president of the Biloxi Bar Association was equally complimentary of Pickering.
"I don't think you ought to have to wait this long. He's brilliant. He's great. He's got character and integrity. And we need him on the bench," said Clare Hornsby.
Although his most vocal critics questioned Pickering's past positions on race relations, his public speeches often address a need for racial reconciliation.
"If we don't find ways to address racial problems in a positive and constructive manner, the future of our nation and our grand children is not nearly so bright," he told the bar association.
Charles Pickering's comments included advice and encouragement to his fellow lawyers. His closing remark may have reflected his own determination to be confirmed.
"Never give up. We must never give up on making America great. Thank you."
Pickering's nomination to the federal appeals court is in limbo at the moment. He will face a more favorable crowd in the Senate this time around. Unlike last year... the GOP now controls the judiciary committee.