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Front Page - Friday, May 24, 2019

Peters celebrates 50 years as an attorney

Wayne Peters (middle, back row) celebrates 50 years in the practice of law with his colleagues at Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon. Front row from left: Gary Henry, Justin Faith, Bob Lockaby, Lee Ann Adams and Ellie Laporte. Back row: David McDowell, Wade Cannon, Peters, Sam Elliott and Dillon Thornbury. Not pictured: Beverly Edge. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

By David Laprad

ayne Peters has crossed the half-century mark in the practice of law. His colleagues at Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon celebrated the milestone with him during a brisket luncheon Friday, May 17.

Later, he shared some of the strange twists his life has taken.

Peters, 74, studied accounting at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and began his professional career in 1965, working part-time for a national CPA firm. He then wanted to further his education by pursuing a Master of Accounting at UT Knoxville.

Shortly before enrolling, Peters was told he lacked one required course, and to receive his degree, he would need to attend for four quarters rather than three. At the last minute, Peters decided it wouldn’t take much longer to go to law school, especially since he’d been attending school year-round since the week after his high school graduation.

Near the end of his time at UT Law School, Peters noticed a brochure on the bulletin board for an LLM in Taxation program at Washington University. He told his wife he thought that would be a good addition to his accounting and law school background.

“She cried and said she would prefer that we not continue with any more school,” Peters remembers. “I asked that she please complete the application paperwork for me, and told her that it was unlikely I could get into the program, which would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.”

Peters’ wife handled all the application documents for him. Several weeks later, she greeted him with a big smile and handed him an envelope from Washington University.

“I opened the letter, and to my surprise, not only had she achieved my admittance to the LLM in Taxation program, but she had also applied for and secured a full scholarship for me to attend,” Peters recalls.

Since Peters attended school year-round after his high school graduation, he was able to complete the four years of undergraduate school, three years of law school and one year of the graduate tax program in six years.

In 1974, Peters and attorneys Charlie Gearhiser and Sid Carpenter formed a firm that eventually became Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon. Although his original partners have both died, Peters is still working full time, routinely putting in over 12 hours a day.

Peters’ varied practice involves business, estate and tax matters. He represents entrepreneurs, startup companies and other businesses in day-to-day legal matters, sales and acquisitions, operations and tax planning.

Peters is also a certified estate planning law specialist, an accredited estate planner and a Rule 31 Listed General Civil Mediator.

His efforts to achieve the best possible results while mitigating damages have earned him numerous awards. For 29 years, he’s been selected for inclusion in “Best Lawyers in America” for Trusts and Estates, Tax Law and other categories related to his practice.

In addition, he’s been selected numerous times as Chattanooga Best Lawyers Trust and Estates Lawyer of the Year and Chattanooga Best Lawyers Tax Law Lawyer of the Year, recognized as a Super Lawyer and named a Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyer. What’s more, his Martindale-Hubbell peer review rating is the highest available rating: AV pre-eminent 5.0.

While the awards are many, and prestigious, none of them are more meaningful to Peters than the loyalty of his clients. “I have clients I’m in the third generation with,” he says. “They’ve been good to me.”

Peters’ wife, Faye Crabtree Peters, died in April after they celebrated 53 years of marriage. He has two daughters, Marjorie Whiteside and Rebecca Brock, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

For Peters, life revolves around three primary spheres, two of which are work and family. The third is church. In addition to serving as a father and attorney, he’s the pastor of Friendship Primitive Baptist Church in Ringgold.

Peters grew up in a small Primitive Baptist Church in Ringgold. While he was in college, he and Faye would attend services together, and over a period of time, he was asked to open services and eventually conduct the services.

Peters was eventually ordained as a Primitive Baptist minister and began speaking each Sunday. He was soon asked to serve as pastor of the oldest Baptist Church in Fulton County, and did so for about seven years, often making midweek trips and spending entire weekends in Atlanta for church-related activities.

He later accepted the pastorship of the church in which he grew up, and has served in that capacity for about 35 years.

“It’s been interesting how all these different turns in my life have come together. My accounting training, my law school training, my tax training and, more importantly, my services as a pastor have all been beneficial as I’ve served my clients and the members of the church I pastor,” Peters adds.

Peters has often assisted members with difficult circumstances for which his legal training was of great benefit and frequently served his legal clients utilizing his spiritual background and gifts.

“I’ve had long-term clients call me to request that I come to their home or the hospital to be with and pray with them and their family during difficult times, and have frequently been requested to conduct funerals for clients.

“I’ve found that the principles of God’s word have served me well in all aspects of my life and profession. I often share them with clients, and one of the most frequently shared verses is with folks with a lot of money and problems related to it: Proverbs 15:16, which says, ‘Better is little with fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.’ They usually agree with the accuracy of that verse.

“Looking back over my career path, I see how well my professional training and my ministry work have blended together and allowed me to be a better servant to others – and for that opportunity, I am grateful,” Peters concludes.

Longtime Gearhiser Peters attorney Sam Elliott says the firm’s attorneys and staff were delighted to celebrate Peters’ 50th work anniversary.

“Wayne has achieved a stunning record of success and become widely recognized in Tennessee and Georgia as a brilliant lawyer and business strategist,” Elliott says. “It’s an honor to practice law with him and to be able to call him a friend.”