Longtime 12th Judicial District Court Judge Buddy Perry is hanging up his robes and going back to school.
Perry, who has held his seat on the bench for almost 28 years, says he's stepping away from the job he's had since 1986 and returning to private practice in a new area of law when his term expires in 2014.
"I made the decision that I was not going to run again when I was elected eight years ago," Perry said Wednesday. "I'm 66. I felt like that's an age that I should be stepping away and giving a younger person the opportunity."
The 12th District includes Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Rhea, Marion and Sequatchie counties.
Perry said he thought it was necessary to make a formal announcement so everyone in the legal community was aware of his plans and the coming vacancy.
He thanked his friends, fellow judges and particularly his family and assistant Kay Crownover for their support.
Perry, a Winchester, Tenn., native and a Democrat, first was elected in May 1986 in a 12th Judicial District race that had no Republican candidates.
Perry was no newcomer to politics, even then.
His first foray was in 1977 when he was elected to the Constitutional Convention.
In 1980, Perry made an unsuccessful bid for the Tennessee Senate and then came up just short in a run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. 4th Congressional District seat in 1982.
Perry said that when he sought the bench, he realized it was time to put partisan politics aside.
"A judge's job is to listen to the facts and apply the law as they understand. Political views have nothing to do with that job," he said.
Mike Taylor, the 12th Judicial District's attorney general for most of Perry's time on the bench, said the longtime judge was "very straightforward" and will be sorely missed.
"Judge Perry has been an excellent judge, and it's always been a pleasure to practice law in front of him," Taylor said.
Perry now has his sights on a master's degree in conflict resolution from Bethel University.
"I plan to do mediations and arbitrations," he said. "I'm going to school every other Saturday in Nashville.
"Believe me, for an old dog that's a new experience."
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.