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Front Page - Friday, January 31, 2020

Chattanooga Bar celebrates honorees

The Chattanooga Bar Association’s 122nd annual meeting at The Read House on Jan. 22 put a new spin on the term “lawyer jokes” as the various presenters took turns earning big laughs.

Sam Elliott got the ball rolling during his presentation of the Ralph H. Kelley Humanitarian Award when he said he was surprised to be the best-looking presenter at the meeting.

Later, Steve Jacoway, the CBA’s outgoing president, quipped, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Sam,” as he bellied up to the podium of the Silver Ballroom.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris Steger stepped into the fray during his introduction of the bar’s 2020 president, John Harrison, which began with a glowing review of his friend’s career. He then hit the brakes, saying he was beginning to borrow from the eulogy he’s written about Harrison and didn’t want to have to come up with new material.

But no one scored as big a laugh as Harrison as he recounted a nearly 40-year-old story about the time he and fellow attorney Bill Colvin drew the task of visiting Chancellor Wilkes Thrasher to discuss the results of the 1981 judicial bar poll.

“Some of you can appreciate what that meant,” Harrison said over the roar of laughter among veteran attorneys.

“Back when I was a young lawyer working for Max Bahner, he encouraged me to become involved with the CBA. I joined and offered my time to committee service of any kind. They put me on what was called the Court Relations Committee.

“I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to send two brand-new insurance defense lawyers to talk with Thrasher about the bar poll, but as Colvin and I sat down with the chancellor to discuss his favorite topic, he looked at us and said, ‘I have a bar poll of my own.’”

Thrasher, who Harrison says was known to be a temperamental judge and vocal opponent of the bar poll, pointed to a tall stack of papers on a windowsill that contained examples of bad lawyering by attorneys who had appeared before him.

“There were several messages that day for Bill and me, the most pleasant of which was, ‘If you want to see better judging, why don’t you try better lawyering?’”

Although the meeting with Thrasher did not go well, Harrison said it did leave him with a lasting thought. “The administration of justice in Hamilton County is a task we all bear, and it’s our responsibility as lawyers to perform our legal services to the best of our ability.”

During the luncheon, the CBA honored several lawyers who stood out among their peers as they did their best to serve their profession and community in 2019.

YLD Volunteer of the Year

Stephanie Rogers presented the YLD Volunteer of the Year award to Chandler Lawson of Bennett & DeCamp, citing Lawson’s willingness to make room in her schedule to assist with the YLD’s community initiatives. These include expungement services for former prisoners, helping immigrant families protect their children and representing indigent clients facing charges in drug court.

Rogers also mentioned Lawson’s help with planning and implementing a new clinic to provide teachers in Hamilton County with free wills. “She helped to establish our connection with Hamilton County Schools and even carried in paper and a printer,” Rogers pointed out.

Lawson, a former Miss Tennessee with a family law practice, added she was surprised and humbled to receive the award. “The YLD offers many opportunities to become involved and make a positive impact in the community,” she noted. “There’s a place for everyone to lend a hand.”

Harry Weill Zealous Practice of Law Award

While introducing Fielding Atchley, Jr., as the recipient of the Harry Weill Zealous Practice of Law Award, attorney Ira Long said Atchley’s name had occupied the top of the list of nominees.

“Fielding is best described by his colleagues on the bar and bench, who used words like ‘honesty,’ ‘integrity,’ ‘prepared’ and ‘kind,’” Long said. “One person likened him to Atticus Finch.”

Atchley, a partner at McKoon, Williams, Atchley & Stulce, has been engaged in the general practice of law for over 40 years. He also has a long history of being active in civic and church affairs.

Long praised Atchley further, saying he provides a voice of reason when there’s chaos in a courtroom. “His arguments are delivered unhurriedly and in measured tones. And he’s precise in his understanding of the law and its application.”

President’s Award

Jacoway tapped attorney Chuck Flynn to receive the President’s Award, an honor given to the person the bar’s leader has deemed the most helpful during his or her term.

In addition to serving on the YLD board of governors and participating in last year’s mock trial competition, Flynn organized an YLD and CBA committee to address a liability issue related to the YLD and TBA and quickly resolved the matter.

Flynn, a civil litigation attorney with Patrick, Beard, Schulman & Jacoway, also received a letter of commendation from the Tennessee Supreme Court for his considerable pro bono work.

Albert L. Hodge Volunteer Award

Jacoway also presented the Albert L. Hodge Volunteer Award, which the CBA bestowed to criminal defense attorney Lee Davis for his years of service to the bar and Chattanooga community.

In addition to serving as an elected alderman for the town of Walden and organizing an ethics seminar for the CBA, Davis in 2019 volunteered to coach Tyner Academy’s first mock trial team.

Davis said lawyers have an opportunity to effect change in the lives of others and a responsibility to make a positive impact in their community.

“I have gained more than I have given in the relationships developed from these experiences and the wonderful people I have gotten to know,” he said. “When I talk with young lawyers, I encourage them to find something outside themselves and to dedicate some portion of their life to this selfless activity. The community will be better and they will be better people from the experience.”

Ralph H. Kelley Humanitarian Award

While announcing Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams attorney Mark Ramsey as the recipient of the Ralph H. Kelley Humanitarian Award, Elliott pointed out that Ramsey’s yard has been featured in Southern Living magazine.

However, that high honor was not a factor in Ramsey receiving the bar’s Humanitarian Award, which is given to a member of the bar who has improved the lives of others through civic and professional activities.

Elliott explained Ramsey’s involvement in the greater Chattanooga community has been one of outstanding leadership.

“He has served as president of The Bright School’s board of trustees, Friends of the Festival, Hospice of Chattanooga, the Arts & Education Council and READ,” Elliott noted. “He’s also been a trustee of Hunter Museum and served on the board of the Chattanooga Cotton Ball.”

Ramsey’s practice primarily involves estate planning, estate administration, conservatorships, guardianships and elder planning.

Jac Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award

Dunlap attorney L. Thomas Austin provided a sprawling eulogy for the late Steven Greer, the recipient of the Jac Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nestled among Austin’s extensive comments were quotes by Chattanooga attorney John Konvalinka and retired Chancellor Jeff Steward.

“What can one say about Steven T. Greer?” asked Konvalinka. “There are not enough accolades or adjectives. Steve used all his considerable, significant and exceptional powers to be an advocate for his clients.

“He was not a litigator; he was a trial lawyer with ... [an] uncanny ability to predict a jury’s decision or judge’s ruling. When he presented a case, it was a presentation like few others could prepare. And he performed with precision and was always a gentleman to adverse counsel.”

“My father would say Steve Greer was a lawyer who could see around the corner,” began Stewart’s quote. “When I became chancellor and had a chance to preside over Steven’s cases, I came to understand what my father meant. Steven was always well prepared for trial; he knew his facts and the law, and like a brilliant chess player, he also knew what was coming next.”

Stewart also said he was always impressed with how courteous and respectful Greer was to each adversary.

Greer was also active outside the practice of law, where he taught Sunday school, coached Little League Baseball and served on Sequatchie County’s school board.

In 2017, Greer received the Ray L. Brock and Robert E. Cooper American Inn of Court Civility Award – an honor conferred by his fellow jurists.

“Steven was truly a kind and noble man,” concluded Stewart’s quote.

Greer’s daughter, attorney Elizabeth Greer Adams, accepted the award on behalf of her father.


As his final task as CBA president, Jacoway installed the 2020 board of governors by acclamation. This included Jeffrey Maddux as president-elect, Lee Ann Adams as secretary, Robin Miller as treasurer, himself as immediate past president and board members Rusty Gray, Scott Johnson, Katherine Lentz, Judge Rob Philyaw, Richard Rose and Steve Smith.

Jacoway then offered his closing remarks, which included a look back at the death of his friend and fellow attorney Mike Anderson one year ago. “His passing, coupled with the loss of 16 other lawyers last year, reminds us how precious life is and how we should all seize the day and make every minute count, both in our practices and especially in our personal lives.”

Jacoway then thanked the members of the bar for their help in 2019. “Every time I asked an attorney or judge for assistance or to serve on a committee, their response was, ‘Tell me what you need me to do and when you need it done,’” Jacoway said, his tone more somber than it had been at the start of the meeting.

“We have a special, closely knit membership, and I appreciated the support you provided.”

Next, Steger installed Harrison, who ended the meeting on a note of levity by concluding his story about his encounter with Thrasher. “As Bill and I limped down the hill together, he, in a stroke of genius, said, ‘That didn’t go well,’” Harrison recalled. “That was the last time I did anything on behalf of the bar until today. I’m hoping it goes a little better this time.”