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Front Page - Friday, March 15, 2019

Bar Association remembers members lost

Herald Betty Owens, wife of the late Chancellor Robert Vann Owens, selects a white rose. - Photograph by David Laprad | Hamilton County

As Judge Tom Greenholtz convened the Chattanooga Bar Association’s annual memorial service March 8 in the Hamilton County Commission Room, he said it was with a sense of sadness that the members of the association had gathered there.

The service, he added, also is a celebration of the lives of “friends, colleagues and mentors.”

The men and women who presented resolutions before a panel of city and county judges honored 12 individuals who died in 2018.

Among the group of eight lawyers and four judges were a former engineer who helped to redesign the Redstone rocket during the space race against the Soviet Union (Chancellor Robert Vann Owens), a veteran who had fought on Normandy Beach and in the Battle of the Bulge (Alf Rhea “Tony” O’Rear) and a high school dropout who became a lawyer, judge and Episcopal priest (the Rev. and Hon. Samuel Houston Payne).

While presenting the resolution for his friend and colleague Hunter Heggie, attorney Glenn Stophel noted that four of the men honored during the service were of the nation’s “Greatest Generation,” having grown up during the Great Depression and in some cases fought during the Second World War.

Although the 11 men and one woman honored during the service had each led a unique life, they had shared their commitment to the law, their dedication to their community and their love for their family – and left behind a legacy that inspired praise.

Chancellor Robert Vann Owens

Died March 13, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by the Hon. S. Bruce Owens

“My father was diligent, conscientious and hard-working. He received academic awards not because he was a brilliant man but because he worked hard and was always as prepared as he could be for any task or endeavor.

“If my dad was wrapping up this memorial, he’d say, ‘Be humble, do what is right and just, help the less privileged and those in need, be faithful, stay close to God and remember to let your loved ones know how much you love them.’”

Alf Rhea “Tony” O’Rear

Died May 7, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by the Hon. Russell Bean

“Tony worked as a bricklayer during law school. Upon learning that he’d been admitted to practice law, he immediately laid down his bricklaying materials and said, ‘See you later, boys. I’m going to be a lawyer.’

“He was later elected as a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. He took this time to heart, passing legislation that helped the common man. He was most proud of helping to pass the bill that turned the private University of Chattanooga into the public University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.”

Mike Caputo

Died May 18, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by Marty Levitt

“Mike Caputo was a loving husband, devoted father, affectionate poppy and tenacious criminal defense lawyer.

“Mike handled some of the worst cases in Hamilton County over a 30-40-year period. While the amount and quality of the work Mike did impressed me, I admired the way he treated people and cases with dignity. He was a gentleman in and out of court.

“Those of us who knew Mike consider ourselves blessed.”

The Hon. Robert Summitt

Died June 16, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by Virginia Ann Sharber

“Dad was honored to serve as judge, always listening closely to every side of a disputed issue and carefully explaining to jurors the seriousness with which they needed to take their responsibility.

“He especially enjoyed welcoming and mentoring the newest members of the litigation bar to the practice of law.

“Dad was empathetic and apt to form relationships not because of some useful expediency but because he had a genuine interest in other people and their perspectives, and he frequently used his many talents to make a positive difference in their lives.

“I always thought the ‘Your honor’ title was fitting for my dad. He was always intentional about living an honorable life and treating everyone fairly and with respect.

Through his military service, his legal and judicial career, his many volunteer commitments and his devotion to church and family, I believe the life he lived made our community a better place for everyone.

“Dad was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and friend. He passed away after squeezing a lot of living out of his 94 years.”

Robert Anthony Frazier

Died June 19, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by Michael Pritchard

“Being the philosopher he was, Bob believed in his practice of law that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and he was never intimidated by his adversary.

“That said, Bob was always cordial to his adversaries and was known by other lawyers as a true gentleman of the bar. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

Brenda Siniard

Died July 29, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by Ardena Garth

“She was a wonder to know and dedicated to her practice, and we’re all better for having known her.”

Barton Burns

Died Aug. 10, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by Glenn Stophel

“I suppose most tax lawyers are known by their peers as something other than flamboyant. We certainly would not refer to Bob Burns as over-the-top or an excessive self-promoter. But the word ‘unique’ would fit him pretty well.

“The combination of Bob’s insurance tax law expertise and his ability to solve complex tax problems was unusual and hard to find.

“A big man both physically and intellectually, Bob was always willing to help others in need.”

Chancellor Howell Peoples

Died Aug. 10, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by the Hon. Jacqueline Bolton

“Howell loved the law. The more challenging the case, the more he was involved.

“In an interview, Howell said he found his work as chancellor tremendously rewarding. He said, ‘It’s a great position because every day is different. I also get to work with wonderful people. The lawyers in this community are excellent and make it a pleasure to go to court.’

“Howell was wise and had extraordinary common sense. He also had a wonderful sense of humor with a pinch of mischief. He loved people, his community and his profession. But most of all, he loved his … [family].

“For many young lawyers, Howell was a chancellor, father figure, counselor and mentor. He had a serious but gracious judicial demeanor.

“Howell Peoples was a good and honorable man.”

Charles “Ed” Edward Lane Sr.

Died Nov. 5, 2018

Resolution prepared by Neal Thompson and presented by Rex Sparks

“Ed had a great wit and sense of humor. He was an experienced and ethical lawyer in our courts and well-respected.

“Ed knew who the good and less-than-good players were. And he acted accordingly in each circumstance.

“He was always a zealous advocate and he served his clients well.

“Ed was courageous and he spoke the truth to power, which is not easy to do. I liked that the most about him.

“Ed Lane was a lawyer, husband, father and friend, but above all, he was a good man and an honor to this profession.”

Thomas Caldwell

Died Dec. 19, 2018

Resolution prepared by Neal

Thompson and presented by

Joanna Beckman

“My father was a tireless community volunteer, most notably serving on the board of Orange Grove Center for over 60 years.

“He recently received the Chattanooga Bar Association’s Jac Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in legal processual and was honored as a Living Legend by Orange Grove. And last fall, Gov. Haslam named him Colonel Aide de Camp, the highest honor granted to an individual by the governor of Tennessee.

“Dad did his best at anything he agreed to do whether it was the practice of law, mentoring young lawyers, serving the community or dealing with his family and friends. He always put others first and lived as a true Christian.

“I’ve heard many stories from people at Baker Donelson [a firm of more than 750 lawyers Caldwell helped to form] about how much they respected him and how kind he was to everyone. The most common comments from his fellow lawyers were, ‘He was the smartest man I knew,’ ‘He was a great lawyer’ and ‘He always had your back.’ And from his clients, ‘We knew he would always take care of us.’

“But the comment I heard the most and of which he would be the proudest was, ‘He was a good friend.’”

Hunter Heggie

Died Dec. 22, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by Glenn Stophel

“Hunter was known and respected for his calm temperament under stress, his willingness to undertake tough jobs for the firm and his integrity and stature in the community.”

The Rev. and Hon. Samuel Houston Payne

Died Dec. 31, 2018

Resolution prepared and presented by the Hon. Clarence Shattuck

“Headlines in local newspapers referred to Sam as judge, priest, musician, Air Force veteran and street fighter. These suggest a colorful life as well as a meaningful life.

“Sam was not one to avoid a confrontation, verbal or otherwise. It was such a situation that prompted the street fighter headline.

“One afternoon while driving home, Sam observed two men attacking another one. As Sam approached the vehicle, he shut the door on one guy, knocking him down. The other guy took off running, so Sam took after him. After several blocks up Cherokee Avenue, the man gave up.

“Sam walked him back to the scene, where the police arrested him. One of the officers later said the defendant said, ‘I thought I could outrun that guy, but I looked back and that old guy was right behind me.’

“Sam loved working with people. That’s one of the reasons he stayed in circuit court and answered the call to the priesthood.

“Sam was an encourager and a counselor. As a lawyer, he reconciled many couples who were on the verge of divorce, and as a priest, he counseled many couples who were getting married. Sam holds the record for marriages in Hamilton County at 2,202.

“From the bench, Sam’s advice helped many litigants. Recently, a person told me, ‘What Judge Payne said to me in court got my attention. He straightened me out. I haven’t been in trouble since.’

“When encouraging someone who was having difficulties, Sam would say, ‘I’m a high school dropout, and look what I’ve been able to do.”

At the conclusion of the service, Judge Greeholtz admonished those present to use their time with others well, saying, “I knew some of these individuals better than others. Some, I came to know much better today, and I wish I had known them better. I clearly lost out.

“Maybe one thing I’ll take away from today is that I need to reach out more and get to know more of my fellow lawyers.”