Tag Archives: birch

Birch Eulogized as ‘Tennessee’s Thurgood Marshall’

In the days after his father’s death, Adolpho A. Birch III has been overwhelmed by the countless stories people have told him about the towering man with the signature white beard, reports the Tennessean.
He was dear to many — judges, lawyers, politicians — who shared stories about the first African-American chief justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court. But others who crossed paths with the elder Birch had fond memories as well, from the man who delivered his mail, to the department store clerk to Kelvin, who peddles the homeless newspaper The Contributor at West End and Bowling avenues.
… Adolpho A. Birch Jr. died of cancer Thursday at a local hospital. He was 78.
Along with his son, Tuesday evening’s 45-minute tribute featured speeches from Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark, lawyer and longtime family friend Nancy A. Vincent, First Amendment Center founder and former Tennessean editor and publisher John Seigenthaler, and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
“He left a very simple equation: Value your education. Live your faith. Be sincere. Be kind. And remember, every person matters,” Dean said. “… I agree wholeheartedly that he was Tennessee’s Thurgood Marshall. Justice Birch made the world a better place, a fairer place, a more equal place.”

A.A. Birch Services Set Tuesday

Adolpho A. Birch Jr., Tennessee’s first black chief justice and the only person to serve at every level of the state judiciary, will lie in repose from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the historic Metro Courthouse in downtown Nashville. A memorial service will follow at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Auditorium.
More from the Tennessean’ story:
Birch died of cancer Thursday. He was 78. “I just think of him as being the standard of what a justice ought to be,” said Nashville author John Egerton, who wrote a story about Birch for The Tennessean in 1996.
“He looked the role, and it was in his makeup. He just had the presence of a wise person. But he was shy. He didn’t like to talk about himself.”
Birch spent much of his career at the Metro Courthouse — first as a young lawyer and then as Davidson County’s first black judge — before Gov. Ned McWherter appointed him to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in 1987.
Birch was the first black appellate judge in state history. He would go on to join the Supreme Court, and he became its first black chief justice in 1996. He retired from the bench a decade later. When Nashville opened a new courthouse for its Criminal and General Sessions Courts in 2006, it was named after Birch.

Some tributes to Birch from political figures are posted below.

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Justice A.A. Birch Dies, aged 78

From The Tennessean:
Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr., the first African-American elected to a Nashville judgeship and the first to lead the Tennessee Supreme Court, died Thursday. He was 78.
Former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, who was recently elected by the Metro Council to be the next Davidson County Criminal Court clerk – the first African-American to hold that role – confirmed Birch’s passing.
“I was hoping he would be at my swearing in Tuesday,” Gentry said in a text message this morning.
Birch retired from the bench in 2006 after 13 years on the state Supreme Court, six on the Tennessee Court of Appeals and 18 on Davidson County’s General Sessions and Criminal courts. He was chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1996-97, then won a hard-fought election to an eight-year term in 1998.
Birch underwent surgery in July 2004 and then had radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer. He took time off but returned to work full-time in November of that year.
…..Earlier in his life, before he became an attorney, an assistant public defender and a prosecutor, Birch worked as a cab driver.
Nashville named a new, $49 million general sessions and criminal courts building for Birch in 2006. It sits across James Robertson Parkway from the historic courthouse.
A statement from the current Supreme Court chief justice is below.

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