Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 28, 2022

Friends, family, colleagues celebrate Shattuck portrait

Retired Judge Clarence Shattuck and family members at the unveiling of his judicial portrait Oct. 20. - Photos by Lynda Hood

Courtroom One of General Sessions Court was filled to capacity on the afternoon of Oct. 20 as a murmuring crowd patiently awaited the hanging of the Hon. Clarence Shattuck.

A hush fell over the room as Judge Christie Sell took the bench to preside. Both the gallery and the jury box were filled to capacity and dozens of onlookers occupied the rest of the public area. A few who’d arrived too late to squeeze in were straining their necks to see from the foyer.

Friends, family, fellow jurists, court clerks, elected officials and more had set aside their daily routine to attend what promised to be a notable occasion. After all, it’s not everyday one is able to view, as Sell said, “the hanging of a living legend.”

Sell thanked attorney Lee Davis for orchestrating the event. Davis deferred to Shattuck, 86, who sat on a folding chair in front of the bench, his minister and an attorney flanking him on either side.

If anything in the room was drawing more eyes than Shattuck, it was the unseen object leaned against the easel that stood a few feet to his right. Draped in black cloth, it’s likely everyone in the room was eager to see it.

Or rather, everyone in the room was probably anxious to see how closely the reproduction beneath the fabric resembled Shattuck. For it was not Shattuck who was to be hung but his portrait – the crowning memorial to his 36 years on the bench, which ended with his retirement April 1, 2019.

Davis had spearheaded the effort to raise money for the likeness. “His persistence, dedication to the legal community and fundraising efforts made this judicial portrait possible,” read the program for the event.

After Sell welcomed everyone and Dr. Charles Starks, senior pastor of Hixson United Methodist Church, had delivered a rousing invocation, Sell invited the attorney seated next to Shattuck to speak on his behalf.

Arnold Stulce initially sounded as though he were defending a client.

“When I was thinking about what to say, I called several of you in this room to find some humorous anecdotes, or the kind of colorful tales lawyers might share with each other.

“But I couldn’t dig up a single story about Judge Shattuck coming off the bench to challenge someone to a fist fight, sleeping in the courtroom, or summoning the district attorney if he thought someone wasn’t telling the truth,” Stulce began.

“No one had a story about an outburst or berating of an attorney, even if they needed it, in front of the courtroom or a client.

“All of your stories indicated exemplary moral character, high legal ability and a temperament in the courtroom that reflected Judge Shattuck’s Christian faith.”

Stulce noted that Shattuck repeatedly mirrored those same qualities in the annual judicial poll the Chattanooga Bar Association distributes, with the judge “unfailingly receiving the highest recommendations” from the people who interacted with him in court.

“What I found instead was a life lived with integrity and faith that nourished and elevated Judge Shattuck during difficult times. And there have been difficult times in his life, but they never overflowed into the courtroom.”

Instead, Stulce continued, Shattuck displayed fairness, equity and a desire to serve his fellow citizens.

“Even in his judgments and pronouncements, there was always an effort to teach, to inspire, or to show someone how to do better. There was never compassion lost for anyone who was in his courtroom.”

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann followed Stulce. He referred to Shattuck as “a beacon of light” emanating from the bench.

“I tried my first lawsuit in General Sessions Court. I was 23 and I didn’t know a lick about the practice of law. And without exception, whether I was up against a worthy opponent or a pro se defendant, Judge Shattuck made sure he dispensed justice. I learned volumes from him.

“When I turned 30 and was able to sit as special judge, I looked to his example time and time again because I wanted to get it right.”

Shattuck listened quietly and occasionally smiled as more people took the podium. Paula Floyd, a family friend, called him “one of a kind.”

“They’ll never make another one like him. When our father died, Clarence presided over his funeral. When my twin sister died, he presided over her funeral. When our mother died, he presided over her funeral. I can think of no better person to speak over my family.”

Floyd then turned and spoke directly to Shattuck, saying, “Thank you for what you’ve done for the community and for what you did for the people who walked into your courtroom thinking they didn’t have a chance. You didn’t see color or economic status, you saw a human being, and you treated them with the purest, godliest heart.”

Wayne Keylon, who’s overseen numerous addiction ministries in Chattanooga, spoke about the volunteer work Shattuck did on behalf of those endeavors and shared stories that turned the judge’s smile into a laugh.

“I used to sit in the back of the courtroom and vouch for certain people who came in here. On one occasion, a lady and a husband who were separated were standing before Judge Shattuck. He asked her if she loved her husband, and she said yes, and then he asked him if he loved his wife, and he said yes, and then he said, ‘Then kiss and make up.’”

Keylon also mentioned Shattuck’s well-known prowess on a basketball court as they practiced one afternoon at Soddy-Daisy Church of God.

“Judge Shattuck liked to drive around people and I liked to put a body on a person, so when he tried to go around me, I stepped up and he bumped into me. He came back and said, ‘I thought you were softer than that.’”

After noting that everyone’s stories could fill the afternoon, Sell declared that the moment for which everyone was waiting had arrived: It was time to unveil Judge Shattuck’s portrait.

As one of Shattuck’s three sons and a grandson pulled the cloth off the portrait, the judge stood watching only a few feet away from the bench he’d occupied for nearly 40 years. And as the sound of applause filled the courtroom, he gazed bemusedly at his likeness, which was based on a photograph submitted to the artist.

Shattuck remained silent for several seconds after the ovation had faded. Then he joked, “How do I say, ‘That’s a good picture,’ when I’m the one in it? How do I say, ‘That’s the most handsome man I’ve ever seen?’”

The audience then indulged Shattuck as he took a leisurely stroll down memory lane. Stops along the way included a story about how his wife, Ruth, had shared a Bible verse to calm his nerves on the eve of his appointment in 1982, an anecdote about how a member of the maintenance crew at the jail where his first office was located posted a sign that read, “Judge Shattuck’s chambers are located behind the bathroom,” and an account of his first day as a judge.

“One of the cases was a criminal traffic case. A man had failed to purchase a new tag but had come to court with a current tag. I leaned over to (deputy court clerk) Rick Durham and whispered, ‘What have they been doing with these cases?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. ‘This is my first day, too.’”

Shattuck grew up in Soddy-Daisy (in the days before paved roads, electricity, public water and telephones, his biography notes) and graduated from the town’s high school in 1953.

From there, he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Tennessee Technological University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee Law School.

Before ascending to the bench, Shattuck was a partner in the law firms of Kelley, Dirisio & Shattuck, Shattuck & Payne and Shattuck & Durby.

During his 22 years of practice, he tried cases in all of the courts of Hamilton County and the Tennessee appellate courts.

He was appointed to the Hamilton County General Sessions Court in 1982 and was then elected, unopposed, for five consecutive terms.

Over the years, Shattuck was involved in many civic activities and served on numerous boards, including Teen Challenge, the Transformation Project, the Boy Scouts Mountain District and others.

“It’s been fun,” Shattuck said in closing. “I’m thankful for many things, but none more than my friends. I thank every one of you that’s here. Each of you is special to me.”

As the hanging came to an end and people crowded around Shattuck to offer gratitude and congratulations, the opening stanza of a poem by Edgar Guest, which Stulce had read, lingered in their memories.

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,” Stulce had read. “I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.

“The eye is a better pupil, more willing than the ear; fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear.

“And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds; for to see a good put in action is what everybody needs.”