Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 9, 2021

Lessons learned from presidents past

Wayne intent on devouring all their biographies, has 28 left on the shelf

Matt Wayne is a Chattanooga-based associate with Copeland, Stair, Kingma & Lovell. - Photograph provided

When attorney Matt Wayne is serving a client, he draws on his education in the law and his ever-deepening experience in civil litigation to effect a desired outcome.

But when he’s grappling with one of the many demands that come with being a lawyer, he turns to certain figures of history for inspiration and encouragement.

Specifically, he turns to the presidents of the United States.

“James Monroe and Quincy Adams were journalists at heart, and they left behind an in-depth record of how they dealt with conflict and the other issues they faced,” Wayne says. “I relate those stories to the issues I have, and when I think about how those great men handled controversy and the daily grind of being president, then I think maybe I can handle the things I’m facing, too.”

Ask Wayne what he does for fun, and he’ll say run, watch UT football and create recipes with his wife, Hannah. He’ll also say he loves to read.

Ask Wayne what he’s reading, and he’ll casually reply, “Biographies of our presidents.”

Wayne is not just reading a biography of every single POTUS, he’s also reading them in order – beginning with Washington and someday ending with whoever else serves in the nation’s highest office once he’s read the others.

He says tackling the profiles in order gives him a perspective on history he might have otherwise missed.

“Reading them chronologically allows you to see how they played off each other and how things changed through the years. It’s incredibly interesting.”

Wayne is currently absorbed in David Herbert Donald’s “Lincoln,” a biography of the nation’s 16th of 46 presidents.

He says reading the book within the context of today’s political and social divisiveness in the U.S. allows him to appreciate the contention Lincoln faced during the Civil War.

“Coming from a small town before eventually turning to the law, I’m appreciating his work ethic and ability to broker common ground with his peers and opposition alike. Going from a log cabin to the presidency is quite the testament to his fortitude.”

Since Wayne previously skipped ahead to the biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and George W. Bush, he’ll have 28 to read in the years to come once he’s done with Honest Abe’s. He says he’s looking forward to the ride.

“What the early presidents thought about how our country should be framed, and seeing how those concepts are still in place today has given me a tremendous appreciation for the law,” Wayne says. “They built the law from the ground up, and to see the fruits of their labor play out in what I do today is incredible.”

An associate in the Chattanooga office of Atlanta-based Copeland, Stair, Kingma & Lovell, Wayne’s practice spans a variety of litigation including general liability, construction, employment, trucking and transportation.

Wayne also advises clients in labor and employment issues and defends them in litigation – when it arises. This includes handling EEOC charges ranging from gender and race discrimination to age-related allegations.

As a product of a small town, Wayne says he enjoys his practice for the way it puts him in a position to work with and help real, boots-on-the-ground people.

“I represent a good bit of local, family-owned businesses. I enjoy seeing them grow, helping them support their family and taking the burden of their legal issues off their shoulders.”

A native of nearby South Pittsburg, Wayne originally pursued physical therapy when he began taking classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, but quickly discovered chemistry and math were not his “natural inclination.”

An interest in history led him to take a constitutional law class with adjunct professor Tom Greenholtz, who is now a criminal court judge in Hamilton County. The class placed him on the path to the law, Wayne says.

“It was around 2011, and there were a lot of drone strikes in the Middle East,” Wayne recalls. “He would bring current newspaper clippings about the strikes and the war powers of the president to class, and we’d discuss what happened and how it related to the Constitution and what the president could do. It brought history to life.”

As Wayne began to study the law at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, he had only a hazy vision of what he would someday be doing. Raised in a blue collar environment and in a town in which every lawyer was a general practitioner, he says he was only vaguely aware he could even work in specific practice areas.

Wayne’s eyes were opened when he did employment work during an internship with the Tennessee Valley Authority and enjoyed it. While flirting with DUI work during a brief stint with a Knoxville firm, he realized criminal work was not his “natural inclination,” either, and decided to develop a civil practice.

After returning to the Chattanooga area and settling in at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, he began to pare down his practice areas to what they are today.

Wayne found his current professional home when he connected with a Copeland Stair attorney during a mediation and learned the firm was searching for someone with his skillset.

“I was looking for a flexible work plan and a good firm environment – and it’s worked out.”

In addition to his practice, Wayne provides leadership and service to several local boards and organizations, including the Rotary Club of Chattanooga, the UTC Alumni Board and the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Chattanooga Bar Association.

“Throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of people reach down and pull me up,” he notes. “And it’s important for me to pour what people have poured into me into this community, especially coming from a small town where a little bit of service goes a long way.”

Wayne also funds a scholarship to college-bound seniors at South Pittsburg High School.

“Attorneys can get caught up in billing and running around and being busy, but taking a breath and reaching out to the community pays dividends.”

So does reaching back in time to find inspiration in the lives of the American presidents, Wayne says.

“They were always learning and trying to better themselves. The decisions they made, especially at the beginning of our country, were phenomenal. Reading about their lives has had a profound impact on me.”