Death of fmr. Chief Justice William H.D. Fones Sr. (D-TN) (1917-2010)
- Former Chief Justice served on the court from 5/14/1973 to 1990 and served as Chief Justice from 1974-1976 & 1982-1984. He died on 12/23/2010 in an unspecified location (possibly Memphis,TN).
Ex-justice helped bring reforms to legal arenas
By Chris Conley
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Posted December 28, 2010 at midnight
Former Tennessee Supreme Court chief justice William H.D. Fones Sr. was regarded as the consummate independent jurist who led the court in making professionalism a priority for attorneys.
Mr. Fones died Thursday at the age of 93.
"He believed the judiciary should be above politics," said his son, William Fones Jr.
Mr. Fones, appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1973 by Republican Gov. Winfield Dunn, ran for election to the court the next year as a Democrat and won. He served on the court until his retirement in 1990.
Along with colleagues on the bench, Mr. Fones instituted reforms in the legal profession.
"Discipline until then was local and voluntary," said his son. With new rules, "lawyers were made to answer for bad practices."
The Board of Professional Responsibility, which investigates complaints against lawyers, was put in place at this time.
During his tenure on the bench, Mr. Fones ruled on issues of comparative negligence in civil cases, which allowed for fairer decisions for victims, on women's rights and on First Amendment issues.
"He enjoyed being on the court," his son said. "He liked the intellectual side of it, and enjoyed writing the opinions.
"He was a very practical man."
Born in Friendship, Tenn., Mr. Fones came to Memphis with his family during the Great Depression. He caddied at Galloway Golf Course and learned to love the game, though he said he never had enough time to play it.
He graduated from Messick High in Memphis and West Tennessee State Teacher's College (now the University of Memphis).
Right after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he enlisted and served with the Army as a flier. An attack-bomber pilot, he completed 90 dangerous missions, flying out of New Guinea, the Philippines and other spots in the South Pacific.
After the war, he practiced for 25 years with the firm of Rosenfield, Borod, Fones, Bogatin & Kremer before becoming a Circuit Court judge in 1971.
His wife of more than 50 years, Rebecca Barr Fones, died in 2000.
Along with his son, he is survived by another son, Jere Barr Fones; five grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
There will be a memorial service for Mr. Fones today at the Wilson Chapel at Christ United Methodist Church on Poplar at 11 a.m.
The family requests any memorial donations be made to the Church Health Center.