The Look in Brief

Tennessee Judges Philip Smith, John Everett Williams die over Labor Day weekend

By: - September 6, 2022 6:00 am
(Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

(Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

Tennessee courts lost two longtime judges over the Labor Day weekend with the unexpected deaths of Fourth Circuit Court Judge Philip Smith and Judge John Everett Williams, the presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals

Circuit Judge Philip Smith

Smith served since 2009 as one of two Nashville judges who preside over divorce and domestic violence cases. He passed away unexpectedly overnight Sunday, according to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Smith was 62.

Williams, a West Tennessee judge who presided over criminal appeals cases since 1998, died Sept. 2. He was 68.

Both men had recently been reelected. Judges across the state were sworn in for their new terms Sept. 1.

Judge John Everett Williams

Smith began his career in 1988 with the the Davidson County Office of the District Attorney General, before turning to private practice for 19 years. He was appointed to the Fourth Circuit by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2009. Smith was re-elected in 2010, 2014, and in August of 2022. On Sept. 1, Smith assumed the role of presiding judge of the 20th Judicial District.

Colleagues remembered him over the weekend on social media as a champion of domestic violence victims who exuded kindness.

Williams practiced law in Huntingdon for 17 years before being appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1998 by Gov. Don Sundquist. He was reelected in 2000, 2006, 2014 and 2022. In 2018 he was named presiding judge of the court, which hears appeals from felony and misdemeanor trial court cases. Williams was remembered for his love of bowties and seersucker suits, and his quirkiness. He was a longtime member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Gov. Bill Lee has the responsibility to appoint successors to serve out the mens’ terms.

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.