Supreme Court Justice Gary R. Wade, who has served the Tennessee judiciary for 28 years as a judge, justice, and chief justice, has announced he will retire in September.
Justice Wade was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2006. Wade was elected by his fellow justices to serve a two-year term as chief justice in September 2012. Justice Wade was appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1987, where he also served as presiding judge from 1998 until 2006.
“I would like to thank the people of Tennessee who have allowed me to serve since 1975,” Wade said.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice William “Mickey” Barker, who served on the Court with Justice Wade, said his warmth of personality and leadership skills will be sorely missed.
“My friend and former colleague Gary Wade is one of the finest judges Tennessee has ever produced. His wealth of practical life experiences, together with his keen understanding of the law has made him invaluable in reaching decisions that affect the lives of individuals in our state,” Justice Barker said.
Judge Herschel P. Franks, a member of the judiciary for 42 years, said he regrets that his dear friend is retiring when he is at the top of his game.
“Justice Wade has served with distinction and honor,” Judge Franks said. “His replacement has big shoes to fill, as Justice Wade, through his long career on our appellate courts, has improved the image of our courts through his dedication and exemplary service to the state of Tennessee.”
Wade’s career was focused in public service. He was elected Mayor of Sevierville, where he served from 1977 from 1987 and was the city attorney for Pigeon Forge from 1973 to 1987. Justice Wade attended the University of Tennessee, and received a bachelor of science in 1970. He later received his J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1973.
Retired Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joe G. Riley, who attended UT College of Law at the same time as Justice Wade, said that he is as good a friend as he is a judge.
“His heart has always been in the right place,” Judge Riley said. “His generosity in helping others is unmatched.”
Justice Wade served as president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference from 1995 from 1996 and is the founder of the Tennessee Judicial Conference Foundation, a charitable organization that offers need-based scholarships to students at each of the state’s six law schools.
Justice Wade’s numerous honors include the Tennessee Bar Association Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award (2014); Appellate Judge of the Year, Southeastern Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (2004); Judicial Excellence Award, Knoxville Bar Association (2004); East Tennessee Regional Leadership Award (2006); and the United States Department of Interior Citizens Award for Exceptional Service (2007). He also has served on dozens of community and legal organization boards and commissions and was instrumental in the formation of the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, of which he was a co-founder and past president.
Justice Wade was re-elected to the Supreme Court last year in a retention election that drew an unusual amount of interest.
“I was honored to serve as chief justice during the partisan challenge to the judiciary last year,” he said. “I am especially grateful to the bench and bar, practically all of whom joined in defense of the principle of a constitutionally based balance of powers among the three branches of government.”
Justice Wade said his retirement will be effective September 8.