The State of Tennessee is mourning the loss of retired Court of Appeals Judge Richard H. Dinkins, who passed away on October 1 at the age of 71. Judge Dinkins served on the Court of Appeals from 2008 until his retirement in 2022. Previously, he was a chancellor in Davidson County from 2003 to 2008.
“Judge Richard Dinkins was a pioneer and a treasured colleague," said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Holly Kirby, who served with Judge Dinkins on the Court of Appeals. "Tennessee is a better place today because of his lifelong work on civil rights, especially in education and employment. Throughout his career, he stood for equality. The Court extends its deepest sympathy to his family and colleagues.”
Judge Dinkins was born in Nashville while his father, the late Reverend Charles L. Dinkins, Sr., served as pastor of First Baptist Church in East Nashville. Reverend Dinkins served as president of the Nashville branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Judge Dinkins began first grade in Nashville public schools just as school desegregation started. Later in his career, he would continue the NAACP’s fight for equality in Nashville schools. In 1960, the family moved to Memphis where Reverend Dinkins served as president of Owens College.
Judge Dinkins earned his undergraduate degree from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. He returned to Nashville for law school, graduating from Vanderbilt University in 1977. He joined Civil Rights legend State Senator Avon N. Williams, Jr. in practice and the duo worked together for over 20 years. During his time in private practice, Judge Dinkins was the lead attorney the Nashville school desegregation cases as well as other high-profile civil rights and discrimination cases. He was the cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the cooperating attorney for the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
He was recognized for the Nelson C. Andrews Distinguished Service Award from the Nashville Public Education Foundation for his "fierce advocacy for civil rights in public education," his "exemplary commitment to service," and as "a pillar of civic leadership in Nashville.” He received the Freedom Fighter Medal from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, and was awarded the William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award from the Tennessee Bar Association.
On the bench, Judge Dinkins meticulously authored hundreds of appellate opinions and heard thousands of cases on civil law issues. His kindness was on full display in 2019 when a video of him holding a new attorney’s toddler while she took her oath went “viral” and was viewed by millions across the country.
Judge Dinkins was a member of the American, National, and Nashville Bar Associations; member, Napier-Looby Bar Association, Board of Directors 1981 - 83, Vice President 1984, President 1985; former member, Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, Board of Governors; member, Board of Directors, Nashville Bar Association 1988 - 1991; former member, Commercial Law Section, National Bar Association; Barrister, Harry Phillips Inn of Court 1990-02, Master 2005 - present; member, Board of Directors, Nashville Bar Association 2006 - 08; Fellow, Tennessee Bar Association Foundation.
Judge Dinkins is survived by his children Lachanta Lampkin, Zuri Walker and Ian Dinkins; grandchildren Lariah Hayes and Kennedy Potter; son-in-law Dr. SL Lampkin; and brother Ken Dinkins, as well a host of family and friends.
Services for Judge Dinkins will be held on Saturday, October 21 at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. with the service following at 11 a.m.
Podcast: Remembering Judge Dinkins
Remembrances & Condolences
“Judge Dinkins was a true gift to us all. He was a devoted father and ardent member of the Tennessee Judiciary and his beloved First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. He worked diligently throughout his life to bringing us closer together and to assure that all are afforded equal opportunities. His word was his bond and his legacy will provide guidance for all of us as we go forward.”
-Judge Frank Clement, Court of Appeals
“Judge Dinkins was an excellent judge and friend. His opinions always reflected the thorough research and sound judgment of a first-rate legal scholar. I miss his wise counsel and wonderful stories.”
-Judge Andy Bennett, Court of Appeals
“Richard had an impactful career in private practice and as a jurist. But when I think of him, I remember most his love of God and his family and the kindness he showed to everyone. I feel so fortunate to have served with him and gotten to know him.”
-Judge W. Neal McBrayer, Court of Appeals
“Judge Dinkins was a Great Judge and a Great Friend for so many of Us. He was an Inspiration for me and so many others in the Judiciary and the Legal Community. He Loved and Cared for the People of this Great State of Ours'.”
-Judge John McClarty, Court of Appeals
"Richard hired me to work at Williams and Dinkins in August 1985 and we worked together for over ten years. He was a devoted and conscientious man with a great sense of humor. He made a lot of stressful times relatively pleasant, and we celebrated victories and mourned losses together. My youngest son was born around the time of Richard's son, and we enjoyed having youth sports activities together, and saw each other often at the downtown YMCA. I am thankful for the several visits I made to the David Jones facility to be with him. I loved Richard and I am grateful to him and his family for the career and friendship."
-Ronald W. McNutt, attorney, former law partner and associate at Williams and Dinkins
"Judge Dinkins’ impact was felt all across Nashville- and throughout every sector from education to civil rights to the court system and the Bar. His awards were many, however it was his heart and soul that drove his relentless work to insure Justice for All no matter the setting or issue."
-Deborah Taylor Tate, Former AOC Director
"I practiced law with Richard when I was a relatively young lawyer. He was an excellent teacher and role model, as well as being kind and patient. I learned a lot from sitting in on client meetings with him and seeing how he interacted with people when they were at a very low point in their lives. His ability to empathize but be clear about options and risks/rewards was highly developed. Later, when he was on the bench and I appeared before him as a litigant, I again experienced his kindness and patience, even though he very appropriately put me through my paces! Richard was a mentor to me throughout my legal career as a lawyer and a judge, for which I am eternally grateful. He was many things to many people and I consider myself lucky to have known him and learned from him."
-Chancellor Anne Martin, 20th Judicial District
"Judge Dinkins was an extraordinary human being, scholar, and friend. He was always, without fail, available and generous with his time to help a writer and researcher wanting to know more about the facts and lessons from Nashville’s legal history. Rest well, my friend."
-Keel Hunt, Author of “Crossing the Aisle, How Bipartisanship Brought Tennessee to the 20th Century”
"Richard was our dear friend and his kindnesses were many. We served together on the Eakin PTO where both of our sons attended school. He and his family have been so precious to us - and our memories of him are deep and wide. He was the first person to encourage me to run for office; he presided over my inauguration and swore me in when I became the mayor of Nashville; he eulogized our beloved son at Max’s memorial - as he had been Max’s coach through many sports. He remained our friend through the highs and lows and never ceased to offer words of encouragement and faith. Our deepest condolences to all of those who loved Richard. We will miss him and his wise words and unconditional love."
-Megan Barry, friend
"Richard was a fine and fair judge, a good human being, and a devoted father. He will be missed."
-Larry Harrington, friend
"While Judge Dinkins will be remembered as a champion of civil rights and an esteemed appellate judge, I will remember him as my dear friend and colleague who always had a smile and a kind word. It was an honor to serve with him on the Court of Appeals and I will miss him."
-Judge Arnold Goldin, Court of Appeals
"Richard and I have known each other for many years and we worked together on numerous justice-related projects. He was a kind, sweet man and a great mentor to many young lawyers whom I have had an opportunity to know. We were especially blessed when he joined us with Cyntoia Brown Long in January of 2020 at our annual MLK fellowship breakfast. So many remembrances of this great man and jurist. RIP Richard."
-Charles W. Bone, friend
"Back in pre-historic times, Richard and I had a case opposite each other, the nature of which I forget. He impressed me more than any other lawyer I can recall as a decent, friendly, very competent guy. I am sure that all who knew him would agree. I am sure he made a fine judge."
-Robert A. Lanier, retired circuit court judge, Memphis
"It was one of the honors of my life to serve with Judge Dinkins on the Court of Appeals. His was always the voice of reason and compassion. If you didn't find yourself smiling when around Judge Dinkins, you weren't paying attention. Judge Dinkins was a good judge, but much more importantly he was a good man."
-Judge D. Michael Swiney, Court of Appeals
"I had the pleasure of working at the Supreme Court with Judge Dinkins. He would always greet me with a smile and an encouraging word. I witnessed a kind and humble servant of the Lord and people in general. He will be sorely missed."
-Tara Lee, Trooper
"Richard was my classmate and a wonderful friend. There was so much to be admired about Richard: his faith, his duty to family, his bravery, and his legal skills. I will miss him so much!"
-Barbara Moss, Attorney
"I had the pleasure of appearing before Judge Dinkins while I was in private practice. He was kind, funny, and interested in the issue my partner and I argued. I left the Court of Appeals with the full belief that, win or lose, that we had been truly heard. To me, that is one of the makrs of a true jurist."
-Judge David Howard, Sumner County
"I've known Judge Dinkins since law school...His career trajectory was predictable...Capable, able and compassionate...My condolences to the family..."
- William Ligon, friend
"I had the honor of meeting Attorney Richard Dinkins as opposing counsel in an employment lawsuit, while we were both in private. He was always collegial, gracious, and an incredibly worthy adversary. Later, our paths crossed when he was appointed to the newly created Part IV of the Davidson County Chancery Court and I had the privilege of appearing before him on a number of cases. Even later, I had the great honor of arguing cases before him at the Tennessee Court of Appeals. His kindness, compassion, and intellect was ever present and commitment to equality will be deeply missed. He became a dear friend and mentor for me and many others. With gratitude for his leadership, vision, and invaluable contributions."
-Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal, 20th Judicial District
"Judge Dinkins was a very knowledgeable and kind man. My wife and I had the honor of being the last couple he married in Nashville. That was back in 2005. The advice he gave us and the "recipe for a successful marriage" still rings true 18 years later. We are still together Judge. Thank you."
-Corey Jones, Nashville Resident
"To the family of Judge Dinkins;
You have our deepest sympathy. To you, and all those who truly cared about him. My Mom, and I were so honored when Judge Dinkins accepted our invitation, of offering ‘words of comfort’ at my Dad’s Celebration of Life services. He was the first choice my Mom, and I wanted to hear speak. Judge Dinkins without hesitation accepted the invitation. One of the reasons that we felt he would be the ideal person to speak is because he once served in Chancery Court, and was consistently a genuinely good, honest, fair, and decent man. He also possessed a keen sense of humor, as well. The State of Tennessee has lost one of its Best Judges in my opinion! He will be greatly missed.The State of Tennessee is a much better place because of his tireless advocacy's for fairness, and equality for all Tennesseans. May God Bless the Dinkins family in your time of sorrow. ✝️"
-Irvin "Hugh" Kilcresse III, longtime family friend
"During his private practice years, attorney Dinkins and I conferred and strategized in many of his and of my civil rights cases involving school discrimination, job discrimination and every aspect of federal court trials and appeals. I testified as an expert in some of his cases and always thought he was one of the smartest and best prepared attorneys I had ever known. He was one of our finest Judges and his death is a great loss for our court system and our legal community."
-Larry Woods, friend & colleague
"Richard Dinkins was a great legalmind who knew how to push the levers of power."
-Michael Grant, Former president of the local NAACP and a 1983 graduate of Howard University School of Law
"A magnificent lawyer, judge, mentor, and most of all human being, who always gave selflessly of his time to encourage and inspire our NBA high school summer interns. His intelligence, wit, and charming laughter will forever be missed."
- Rita Roberts-Turner, Attorney, Klein Solomon Mills, PLLC
Richard and I are long time members of First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill and we also served together as members of the Board of Trustees. In fact, Richard and I began our tenure the same year. Richard faithfully served not only as a member but also as Chair of the Board early in his tenure. At the time I became Chair, Richard was spiritually driven to be ordained a Deacon. In both capacities, Richard served the church faithfully and with dignity. He loved his church family and demonstrated that love in a variety of ways. I will, in addition to his biological and church family, miss his kind words of advice and support. RIP my friend!!!
Paul E. Robertson, Juvenile Court Magistrate