Former Supreme Court Justice Barker Dies

  • Monday, April 3, 2023
Justice Mickey Barker
Justice Mickey Barker

William M. "Mickey" Barker, a Hamilton County judge who became chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, died on Monday morning.

Judge Barker, of Signal Mountain, had retired in 2008 from the high court after a judicial career spanning 25 years.

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."

Chief Justice Barker was a native of Chattanooga. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chattanooga and his law degree from the University Of Cincinnati School Of Law. Following graduation from law school, he entered the United States Army, serving for two years as a captain in the Medical Service Corps.

After his military service, he was in the private practice of law until his 1983 appointment to the Circuit Court for the 11th Judicial District. He was elected to the position in 1984 and again in 1990. During his trial court tenure, Barker was consistently given the highest rating for a Circuit Court judge in Chattanooga Bar Association polls.

In 1995, Governor Don Sundquist appointed him to the state Court of Criminal Appeals. The following year, he was elected to an eight-year term. He was appointed by to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1998 and was elected to a full eight-year term the same year and again in 2006. His colleagues on the court unanimously elected him chief justice in 2005.

In his letter to Bredesen, Chief Justice Barker said he had “seen countless positive changes in both substantive and procedural laws” while serving as a judge.

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

At the time of his retirement, he served as chairman of the Tennessee Judicial Council, the Tennessee Code Commission, the Supreme Court Building Commission and the State Law Library Commission.

He also was a member of the American Law Institute and serves on the board of directors of the Conference of Chief Justices and is chairman 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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