Tennessee Judiciary Mourns the Loss of Retired Judge James “Eddie” Beckner

September 16, 2020

Retired Judge James “Eddie” Beckner passed away on September 16, 2020, at the age of 81. Judge Beckner served as a criminal court judge in the Third Judicial District for 30 years and retired in 2006.  He was appointed by then Governor Ray Blanton in 1976 and was re-elected in 1982, 1990, and 1998. After retirement, Judge Beckner remained active in the judicial community, serving on the Retired Judges Committee and as its liaison to the Tennessee Judicial Conference Executive Committee.

Judge Beckner was very active in his community and served on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Morristown 41 years. For the organization, he also served as the chairman of the Tennessee Area Council, which required him to visit all club locations in the state, as well as on the Southeast Regional and National Area Council committees. He initiated and developed dozens of new programs at the Boys and Girls Club, including choir, theatre, computer, sports and social programs.  He also served on the board of the United Way. Judge Beckner was an avid hiker, making annual hike up Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year.

Raised in Morristown, Judge Beckner was a graduate of Carson-Newman College and the University of Tennessee School of Law. He was in private practice in Morristown prior to taking the bench.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Remembrances & Condolences

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"While I did not know Judge Beckner while a sitting Judge, I got to know him as the Chair of all the retired Judges  across the state. He served on the Executive Committee and I never remember  him missing a meeting until this last one. His commitment to his community, his colleagues and to the larger Judiciary Will be a legacy to inspire all judges even after retirement. Deepest sympathy to his family and we are so thankful for his service to our Great State.
- Deborah Taylor Tate, Director, Administrative Office of the Courts

"What a fine, honest man and a good judge. I had the privilege of trying many jury trials and arguing many motions in front of Judge Beckner from the moment I was licensed to practice law. He was very, very fair....but woe be to your client if he or she were found guilty by a jury!  My deepest condolences to the Beckner family.  He will be missed by me and my colleagues.
- Francis X. Santore, Jr., - Attorney

“I learned so much from Judge Beckner in the few occasions that I had to try cases in his court before I took the bench. I applied several of Judge Beckner’s practices in the management of my Criminal Court docket that have served my communities well for the past 22 years. Judge Beckner was always very encouraging to me as a new judge and throughout my career in the Judiciary. I will never forget how honored that I was that Judge Beckner asked to be the judge to give me my gavel at my first Judicial Conference. One of the things that cemented our relationship was our love for disadvantaged children and our commitment to our Boys & Girls Clubs. Judge Beckner was a role model, a mentor, and above all a friend. I will always cherish his impact on my life, professionally and personally."
- Judge Duane Slone, 4th Judicial District

Judge Beckner was a strong man of faith. I had the honor of worshipping with him as well as his wife Carolyn. A very wise and kind individual, very supportive of his church and the leadership.   
Our community has lost a tremendous Christian brother, who cared for those in his life.
- Anthony Keirsey, Former Youth Minister Cherokee Hills Baptist Church

I cherish the many memories I have of trying cases against my friend Berkley Bell with my friend Judge Beckner presiding . Eddie Beckner was personable, knowledgeable and most of all  fair. He touched many lives and he will be missed. My condolences to  his family.
- Gordon Ball, Attorney and friend

Judge Eddie Beckner was a great Judge!!!
- William Louis Ricker, Attorney at Law, Greeneville, TN

When I was 14 years old, I met then attorney Eddie Beckner when he consented to permit me to interview him for a high school General Business project. Flash forward 9 years, and I began practicing in his court as he was by that time the Criminal Court Judge for the Third Judicial District.  He was my mentor.  I learned to show up early, and to be overly prepared on the criminal cases to which he appointed me. I learned all I ever knew about trying a case by being in his courtroom.  In 1990, it was a proud moment for me, and I think for him, too, when he swore me in at the Juvenile Court Judge. He was a man of integrity, and a role model for all of us.  I will miss him.
- Mindy Norton Seals, Retired Hamblen County Juvenile Court Judge


I was a member of the Morristown High School bands - marching & concert - in the mid-1950's when Eddie Beckner was the drum major . . . I graduated in 1958 . . . I think he was a member of the Class of 1957 [not sure] . . . later, when Eddie was a young lawyer, he joined the law office where I was the legal secretary. I enjoyed doing legal work for him when he practiced there before he became a judge. He gave up the private practice of law and, subsequently, served as the criminal court judge for 30 years - Third Judicial District - and, I would see him from time-to-time when he was holding court in Morristown. I never lost contact with him.  He was a most respected & admired man . . . helped more young people than any other one  person I ever knew . . . so active in so many worthy causes over the years .  . . He will be missed by a multitude.
- Deanna Smallman, Former Legal Secretary and Friend


My sincere condolences to Judge Eddie Beckner's wife Carolyn and all of his family. I considered Judge Beckner a great friend, and I always thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with him during judicial conferences.  Judge Beckner was a wonderful friend and colleague, and he will be missed by all of us.
- Judge Joe P. Binkley, Jr., - 20th Judicial District

Appearing for the first time in Judge Beckner’s court was, in many ways, an experience one never forgets.  I was hired to represent an individual accused of attempted second-degree murder in Hancock County, and during my client’s arraignment, Judge Beckner asked when I would be ready for trial. Considering the seriousness of the charge, I suggested a trial date about six months out.  Judge Beckner informed me that defendants were expected to be tried within 45 days of arraignment in his court.  We “agreed” on a date 42 days out—considerably less than the 6 months I had suggested!  On the morning of the trial, east Tennessee was  experiencing a severe winter storm.  There were at least eight inches on snow on the ground at daybreak, so, thinking the case would be reset, I called the clerk’s office for information about weather protocols.  The clerk quickly informed me there was going to be a trial that day because Judge Beckner never cancels court.  I asked, “What about the jurors? How are they going to get to court?”  The clerk responded by saying the sheriff’s department was currently rounding up “all” the jurors, and that I better start heading that way.  By the time I arrived at the courthouse, most of the jurors were already there.  After snowing all day, with about 12 inches of accumulation, the trial ended late in the evening with my client receiving a favorable verdict.  Although Judge Beckner was all business during the trial, what I remember most about that day was the kindness and respect he showed toward my client and me, and the entire experience was one I will never forget.  Leigh Anne and I wish to extend our most sincere condolences to  
Judge Beckner’s family and closest friends, and I am grateful and honored to have had the pleasure of knowing him and practicing in his court.

- Judge John D. McAfee, Circuit Court 8th Judicial District


I was truly blessed to be a part of Judge Beckner's staff as his official court reporter from 1991 to 2013.  He was a wonderful boss, always considerate.  He was the most organized person with whom I ever worked, which made my job and comfort most pleasant.   He made the years of working in his courtroom the best of my career. Judge Beckner worshipped God daily. He took excellent care of his health, always making good diet choices, and exercising regularly and vigoursly.  He used all of the gifts God gave him to help others.  He loved his family, his friends, his community, and God.

- Darlene Britton, Official Court Reporter