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Front Page - Friday, April 5, 2019

‘How do I say goodbye?’

Colleagues, family, friends give Shattuck a rousing farewell

Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Clarence Shattuck spent his last moments on the bench doing what he’d done for the better part of four decades: encouraging a person who stood before him to live a better life.

As the young man listened, Judge Shattuck told him to begin by adhering to his father, who was standing beside him. “You might think you’re smarter than him, and you might even score higher than him on an IQ test, but he’s older and wiser than you, so listen to him,” the judge admonished.

With that, the 83-year-old Judge Shattuck stood and brought a career that spanned 36 years, five months and eight days, and saw him preside over an estimated 1 million criminal and civil cases, to an end.

Wait, a million cases? Is that possible?

“Since 1994, it’s actually estimated that Judge Shattuck has presided over 375,000 criminal cases and over 125,000 civil cases, and tack on another 12 years from when he took the bench – think about this – Judge Shattuck himself has presided over close to a million cases here in this county,” General Sessions Judge Alex McVeagh said.

After stepping off the bench following his final docket, Judge Shattuck proceeded to the atrium of the City-Courts Building, which was filled to capacity with family, friends and colleagues who were waiting to honor him for his distinguished service and congratulate him on his retirement.

“How do I say goodbye?” the judge asked as he looked at a sea of faces that included attorneys, judges, elected officials, friends from grammar school, members of his Sunday School class, fellow Senior Olympians, family members of former law partners, civil and criminal clerks and two of his three surviving children, as well as their children.

“How do you say goodbye to people you love – to people who have encouraged and supported you over the years?” he continued. “If any of you come up with a good way to say goodbye, let me know.”

A few speakers tried as they painted a portrait of a judge who patiently listened to the participants in every case, who was fair but firm and who served his community and lived his life with unwavering integrity.

“I don’t believe anyone in this room could think of a man who’s more loved by his community,” McVeagh said. “The hole your retirement leaves in this court is indescribable.”

As McVeagh spoke, he sported a 1984 campaign button that read “Let’s Keep Judge Shattuck” on the lapel of his suit jacket. Shattuck ran unopposed that year and every election year since then.

The Rev. Randy Martin, Judge Shattuck’s former pastor, quoted Micah 6:8 from the Bible, saying it captures the essence of Judge Shattuck’s character. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Chattanooga Bar Association Executive Director Lynda Hood detailed Judge Shattuck’s service to the bar, which over the years has included participation on the committees to choose the annual recipients of the Ralph H. Kelly Humanitarian and Liberty Bell awards. “He was the voice of reason at those meetings,” Hood said.

Hood continued, describing Judge Shattuck as “a man who understands the balance between rights and responsibilities and judgement and compassion.”

“You’ve been a true servant of the bench, a respected mentor to every attorney and a great friend to me,” Hood added. “You’ll be missed.”

Sen. Bob Corker came to honor Judge Shattuck, saying, “During my years in public office, I’ve seen people begin serving one way and leave another and I’ve seen people grow and learn to serve the public better, but I’m especially privileged to be here today because few people have lived up to the standard you set.”

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger praised Judge Shattuck for always placing others before himself, while Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond compared the judge to Solomon, who was known for being a wise king.

Hammond also commended the judge for his respect for law enforcement. “I’m proud to have served under you all these years,” Hammond said.

Former Hamilton County Commissioner Fred Skillern, who’s known Judge Shattuck since he was in first grade and the judge was in second grade, told several stories from their school days.

“The first thing I remember about Clarence is how everyone wanted to be on his team,” Skillern remembered. “The second thing I remember is how I sat down a lot sooner than him during spelling bees. In fact, he had to stand almost the entire time.”

Skillern also recalled how his teachers and principals would tell him to be more like the judge, who he says was a model student and went on to become a model citizen.

“When my son started school, I wanted him to be more like Clarence than me,” Skillern concluded.

General Sessions Judge Russell Bean reminisced about watching Judge Shattuck go from being a well-respected attorney to a well-respected judge.

He then presented his colleague with a miniature basketball, saying, “Clarence, I know you love to play basketball, but your muscle mass isn’t what it used to be and basketballs are probably feeling heavy, so this ought to help.”

Speaking last, but not the least, attorney Johnny Houston expressed appreciation for Judge Shattuck’s mentorship of local lawyers. “Many of us cut our teeth in your court. You had a knack for teaching us something without anyone else knowing, and you made hundreds of lawyers better.”

Houston also conveyed his admiration for Judge Shattuck’s steadfast impartiality. “I knew my people would get a fair shake no matter who they were, whether they were rich, poor, black, white or Hispanic.

“I’m sorry to see you go, your honor. You have a legacy to which many people aspire – a legacy of wisdom, restraint, kindness and decency. All of us are your beneficiaries. We hope we make you proud.”

Judge Shattuck credits his father with stirring an interest in the law in him. “He’d tell me stories about his Uncle Norman, who practiced law in Lafayette. My dad never pushed me to go to law school, but his stories stayed with me,” the judge said in a 2016 interview with the Hamilton County Herald.

Judge Shattuck declared his decision to pursue a career in law during his freshman year at Tennessee Technological University, where he studied accounting.

While Judge Shattuck could have moved on to law school after three years of undergraduate work, he chose to complete his accounting degree so he’d have something on which to fall back in case the law was not for him.

But the law was for him, not only because of his intellect but also because he had a heart for the people it served.

“I wanted a general practice. While growing up on the north end of the county, there were many times when someone needed a lawyer, and I looked forward to helping people like that,” Judge Shattuck said in 2016.

When Shattuck graduated from the University of Tennessee Law School in 1960, he returned home and joined a small independent firm: Kelley & DiRisio.

After Kelley was elected mayor of Chattanooga in 1963, Shattuck began working with Samuel Payne. The two of them practiced together until 1974, when Payne became a judge. Determined to keep his practice small, Shattuck joined forces with Ronald Durby.

In 1982, Judge Raulston Schoolfield ran for re-election to General Sessions Court and won, but then died a few months later. The Hamilton County Commission appointed Shattuck to take his place. In 1984, Judge Shattuck ran for the remainder of the term and won.

Judge Shattuck’s service to the legal community extended beyond the bench to his support in the 1990s of the movement to convince the residents of Hamilton County to approve the addition of two General Sessions Court judges. He also served as a board member of the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee.

Serving his community was equally important. Judge Shattuck not only volunteered in various capacities at the church he attends, Hixson United Methodist, but also devoted time to the Chattanooga Jaycees, the Boy Scouts of America, STARS, Teen Challenge, the Transformation Project and numerous parent-teacher associations.

As Judge Shattuck labored from the bench and in his community, his wife, Ruth Shattuck, provided steadfast support at home. The judge and his wife met at UT Knoxville in the 1950s and had four children, including three sons and a daughter who died in a home accident when she was 18 months old.

During his retirement celebration, Judge Shattuck expressed regret that Ruth was unable to be there due to poor health. “Without her support, I would not have been able to do all the work I’ve done,” Shattuck acknowledged.

As the judge spoke, a banner reading “Judge Shattuck: The man, the myth, the legend” hung above his head. He was overwhelmed.

“What can I say at a time like this? Kids use to say ‘awesome.’ Years ago, they said, ‘It’s cool,’” Judge Shattuck said. “I don’t know what kids are saying these days, but whatever it is, it applies.”

In closing, the judge said he loved his job. “I’ve been a blessed man – blessed not only by the position I’ve had and my relationships with all of you, but in many other ways.”

Judge Shattuck officially retired April 1. The Hamilton County Commission chose attorney Gerald Webb as his replacement. Webb was inducted April 3 and will serve until the August 2020 general election.