Two Tennessee Judges Die Over Labor Day Weekend

From left to right: Judge Phil Smith and Judge John Everett Williams

Two Tennessee judges passed away over the Labor Day weekend, reports the Tennessee Judiciary.

Judge Phil Smith, 20th Judicial District Circuit Court, passed away on September 4 at the age of 62 and Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge John Everett Williams passed away on September 2 at the age of 68.

Judge Smith

Judge Smith became the presiding judge of the 20th Judicial District on September 1, 2022. He was first appointed to the bench by former Governor Phil Bredesen in March of 2009. He was elected in 2010, 2014, and 2022.

Prior to joining the judiciary, Judge Smith was an assistant district attorney in the 20th Judicial District, working in the Child Support Enforcement. Later in his career he served as a special judge for the Davidson County 2nd Circuit Court, 5th Circuit Court, Probate Court and as a special referee for the Davidson County Juvenile Court. He also served as a hearing panel member on the Board of Professional Responsibility. In private practice, he worked for the Norman Law Firm and Robinson, Smith and Oglesby.

In 2015, The Women’s Political Collaborative of Tennessee honored Judge Smith with a “Good Guys Award” for his work on domestic violence. He graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1988 and Tennessee State University in 1984.

Judge Smith is preceded in death by his parents, Dale and Lurene Smith. Survived by his wife of 39 years, Pam Smith; children, Katelynn Smith and Kelsey Roberge (Mikey); grandchildren, Briston Roberge, Hadley Roberge, and Reed Roberge; brother,
Scott Smith.

In lieu of flowers, please make memorials to The Family Center, Miriam’s Promise, or Show Hope.

Visitation will be at Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home Tuesday, September 6th from 4-6pm and Wednesday, September 7th from 3pm until the time of the Celebration of Life at 5pm.
In honor of the Judge, the family will be wearing UT Orange on Tuesday night. Anyone that would like to join in please do so. As he so proudly said, “It’s football time in Tennessee, Go Vols!”

Judge Williams

Judge Williams was appointed to the court by Governor Don Sundquist in November 1998, and was retained in elections in 2000, 2006, 2014 and 2022. In 2018, he was named presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, becoming the first judge from West Tennessee to hold that position in 25 years.

Judge Williams was from Huntingdon, where he practiced law for 17 years before being appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals. He served as chairperson of the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program for several years and was a strong advocate for the organization.

Judge Williams was well known for his colorful dress and bowties as well as summer seersucker suits. He was a longtime member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He was also an established thespian, dazzling audiences at the Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center just last month.

“‘No longer consider what sort of man the good man ought to be, but be that man.’ Marcus Aurelius’ charge was lived out in the life Judge Williams. What a rare gift he was to the judiciary, what character we were blessed to see in such a man, what a life well and humbly lived. Thank you John Everett! I will miss you, friend,” writes Russ Heldman, Former Circuit Court Judge 21st Judicial District about Judge Williams.

According to Judge Williams’ obituary, arrangements are still being made.

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