S. Richard Holcomb, a native of Chattanooga who spent much of his public life ably serving fellow citizens of his community his state and his nation, died on Sunday. He was 76.
Though most residents of the community undoubtedly are more familiar with his long and notable judicial career, Holcomb's legacy of service includes much more than the 24 years he spent on the General Sessions Court bench. He was elected to three terms in the Tennessee Legislature, served nearly a decade on the State Election Commission, and was named to the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway Authority, where he served for 12 years. He also was appointed to the Court of the Judiciary, where he served for eight years. His was a life committed to the law and to service.
Holcomb had deep roots in Chattanooga. He was born here and was educated in schools here. He was a graduate of Chattanooga High School and attended the University of Chattanooga. His career at the university was one of achievement and renown. He was president of his senior class and of Kappa Sigma, his fraternity. He also was editor of the University Echo, and winner of the Alumni Achievement Award given to the outstanding member of the graduating chance by vote of the university's faculty.
After graduation from UC, Holcomb studied law at the University of Cincinnati, which he attended on a scholarship. He graduated with Order of the Coif academic honors in 1962. After passing the bar exam, he began a private law practice in Chattanooga in 1962. Four years later he was elected to the Legislature.
He served there with distinction, including a term as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, before voluntarily returning to private life. His judicial career began in 1982 when he was elected as General Sessions judge. He served for 24 years before retiring. His service as judge was a labor of love.
Fellow Judge Clarence Shattuck recalled Holcomb's service and connection to the people who appeared in court. "He was certainly a smart man," the jurist said. "What made him a good judge was his sensitivity to people. He was always a fair and open judge." Former Hamilton County manager Dalton Roberts echoed that sentiment.
"He [Holcomb] had a bit more of a human touch than other judges," he said. "He was a very merciful judge."
Services for Holcomb, a U.S. Navy veteran who remained active in veterans groups for decades, are scheduled this morning with Judge Shattuck presiding. Burial will follow at Chattanooga National Cemetery with full military honors.
Judge Holcomb will be missed most acutely by his family, but others -- members of the local judiciary and the legal profession as well as the public he served for so long and well -- should remember his life and his years of public service with appreciation and affection.