To donate money for work on General Sessions Court judge portraits, contact the law firm of Davis and Hoss at 423-266-0605.
Portraits hanging in General Sessions Court
• N.B. “Buck” Hargraves Sr., 1958-1963
• W.M. “Bill” Sherrill, 1974-1988
• B. Tarleton Bowles, 1974-1976
• Jesse C. Parks, 1977-1982
• Joe F. Goodson, 1943-1958
• Riley Graham, 1942-1943
• Benjamin L. Cash, 1968-1974
• W.T. “Bill” Myers, 1950-1974
• Frank Chamlee, 1942-1948
• John J. Lively Sr., 1950-1966
• W.N. “Buck” Dietzen, 1966-1974
• Raulston Schoolfield, 1974-1982
• orace H.L. Smith, 1986-1997
Source: Portrait plaques, Times Free Press archives
Their unblinking eyes have looked upon courtrooms each day for decades, one for a century. The decisions they rendered had lasting impacts on the lives of thousands.
Judge portraits in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County courts building give a human face to those who pass through the sometimes-sterile system.
Local defense attorneys Lee Davis and Stan Lanzo are seeking a way to memorialize three past judges whose faces are missing from the walls of the courthouse — S. Richard Holcomb, Bob Moon and Russell C. Hinson.
Holcomb and Moon died this year; Moon still was serving as Sessions Court judge at the time of his death. Hinson died in 2009.
The tradition of judge portraits has been mostly up to their families or fellow jurists to arrange locally, said Davis. He and Lanzo have raised about half of the estimated $18,000 to $30,000 needed to have the portraits painted and hope to begin commissioning artists in the next month, he said.
The faces on the courthouse walls — from federal to Circuit to Sessions and Criminal courts — echo history and show changing times, Davis said.
“If you look at the portraits now, they’re almost entirely white male portraits,” he said. “You come back 50 years from now you’re going to see walls that look very different.”
Among the 26 judges whose portraits hang in Sessions and City Court on the second floor of the courthouse, three are black, while the rest are white. All are male.
Davis said he would like to see a revolving fund set up so that, when local judges retire, there’s money to have a portrait made.
Local attorney Max Bahner has helped other litigators with portraits of federal judges and said the practice is a way to personalize the court.
“These add a great deal, I think, to the way people perceive what goes on there,” Bahner said. “All of these people were fine, upstanding lawyers and became judges who really worked hard at becoming judges in the finest sense of the word.”
Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline S. Bolton spearheaded efforts to restore numerous judge portraits that were gathering mold — both on the walls and in storage — in the county courthouse on Georgia Avenue.
Bolton said the judges’ faces looking at her each day in her own courtroom remind her of the personal nature of the job and how she relates to the litigants before her.
“I try to humanize it,” she said. “I don’t bite; I promise you I’m trying to help you here.”
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...