His new title as the "honorable" U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee might confuse some of his friends, Bill Killian says.
"They guys who play golf with me, [they] might be stunned that I'd be addressed as honorable in anything," said Killian, laughing Thursday evening at a private event held at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
In May, President Barack Obama picked Killian, a lawyer in Marion County for the past 32 years, to lead federal prosecution programs in East Tennessee.
During the reception, Curtis Collier, chief U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District, called Killian's appointment a high honor and said he was confident in Killian's ability to perform as one of the state's top federal prosecutors.
"He has made tremendous sacrifices for this position," Collier said.
Killian, who became visibly emotional several times in his address, cried when talking about playing for the first integrated basketball team at his high school in South Pittsburg. Two of his teammates were present at the reception, he said.
"We suffered through some times," he said. "It galvanized me against discrimination, and that's a good thing."
He also discussed the difficulty facing him in his new job and said he plans to work hard to prosecute major terrorism and drug cases in the Eastern District of Tennessee.
"I'm kind of like a boxer in the ring," he said. "I expect to meet the punches in this office and keep fighting. ... If at the end I didn't perform with distinction, it's not because I didn't try with every ounce of energy I had."