Former Tennessee Supreme Court Judge Mickey Barker Dies at 81

April 4, 2023

On Monday morning, William M. "Mickey" Barker, who served as a judge in Hamilton County and later became the chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, passed away at the age of 81.

After a judicial career that spanned 25 years, Judge Barker of Signal Mountain stepped down from his position on the supreme court and retired in 2008, according to a report by The Chattanoogan.

Governor Phil Bredesen said at the time, "In a judicial career spanning over 25 years, Chief Justice Barker has served the state of Tennessee with honor and integrity.

"Tennessee is fortunate to have benefited from his long commitment to public service. While I regret that he is retiring from the Supreme Court, I wish him all the best as he begins this new chapter in his life."

The Judge's Early Career

Chief Justice Barker was a Chattanooga native and had a  Bachelor's degree from the University of Chattanooga and a Juris Doctor from the University of Cincinnati School of Law.

After graduating from law school, he joined the United States Army and served as a captain in the Medical Service Corps for two years.

After his military service, he practiced law privately until 1983, when he was appointed to the 11th Judicial District Circuit Court.

He was first elected in 1984 and then again in 1990. Chattanooga Bar Association surveys routinely awarded Barker the highest rating for a Circuit Court judge throughout his time on the trial bench.

In 1995, he was appointed to the state Court of Criminal Appeals by Governor Don Sundquist. The subsequent year, he was elected to a term of eight years.

In 1998, he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court and subsequently elected to a full eight-year term and re-elected in 2006. In 2005, his fellow judges unanimously elected him chief justice.

While serving as a judge, Chief Justice Barker stated in a letter to Bredesen that he had “seen countless positive changes in both substantive and procedural laws.”

“I am pleased to report that the state of the judiciary in Tennessee is excellent,” he wrote.

After Retirement

He was the chairman of the Tennessee Judicial Council, the Tennessee Code Commission, the Supreme Court Building Commission, and the State Law Library Commission at the time of his retirement.

In addition to being a member of the American Law Institute, he is on the board of the Conference of Chief Justices and is the head of its Problem-Solving Courts Committee.

“Chief Justice Mickey Barker was an extraordinary judge, who dedicated his life to strengthening Tennessee’s justice system," said Senator Bo Watson. "His many years of public service to Chattanooga, Hamilton County and our state are an exceptional legacy. Nicole and I are saddened to hear of his passing, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his loved ones.”


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