Edward Riley Anderson, a former Tennessee Supreme Court chief justice who once worked and volunteered in Oak Ridge, died Wednesday, July 4, after a long fight with cancer. He was 85.
Anderson was born in Chattanooga but moved to Knoxville as a child, according to his obituary. He graduated from Central High School and received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Tennessee.
After law school, in 1958, Anderson became the first associate at the Oak Ridge law firm of Wilson & Joyce, according to the Tennessee State Courts website. Frank Wilson and Gene Joyce would have a major impact on his life, the state said in a news story posted online.
“I couldn’t have had two better mentors to go to,” Anderson said in that article. “I think it’s important to have that when you’re a young lawyer and you’re malleable. You’re going to be influenced by whoever you associate with. I couldn’t have been more fortunate in my choice of mentors.”
When Wilson left the firm after his appointment to the federal bench, Anderson became a managing partner, and the firm was renamed Joyce, Anderson, and Meredith, the state courts news story said.
The firm had a “very strong work ethic,” Anderson said, a principle that first resonated with him at a young age and would continue to do so throughout his entire career. Anderson had been with the firm nearly 30 years when he decided to pursue a judicial career after a judge of the Tennessee Court of Appeals retired unexpectedly.
Governor Ned McWherter appointed Anderson to the Court of Appeals in March 1987. The transition was not easy after so long in private practice, the state said in its news story.
“I missed the people,” Anderson said in that article. “I missed the association. And to some extent I missed the adversarial part of it, the competition part of it. Primarily it was the people.”
Nevertheless, Anderson excelled on the appellate bench, the state said. Three years later, in 1990, he was elected to the Tennessee Supreme Court, where he served until his 2006 retirement. He was chosen by his colleagues to serve as chief justice for the first time in 1994. When he retired from the court in 2006, Anderson had served as chief justice longer than anyone else in the preceding 40 years.
“In his remarkable judicial career, Justice Anderson served three years on the Court of Appeals, 16 years on the Tennessee Supreme Court, and five terms as chief justice,” according to the state courts website. “During his tenure on the Supreme Court, he led the way for innovative improvements to the outreach and functionality of the Tennessee judiciary.”
In addition to his legal and judicial career, Anderson believed strongly in the importance of civic and community service, and when speaking publicly often quoted Winston Churchill on the subject: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” He volunteered his time to many organizations over the course of his life, including the Oak Ridge Charter Commission, the YMCA, the Mental Health Foundation, the Rotary Club, and the Methodist Church, the state said.
Anderson was also active in many civic organizations such as the boards of East Tennessee Foundation, the Boys Club in Oak Ridge, and Home Federal Bank, according to his obituary.
As chief justice, Anderson worked to make courts open and accessible and to educate Tennesseans about the judicial branch of government, the state said.
“The courtroom is not sacrosanct,” Anderson said at a Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy symposium in 2006. “It belongs to the people just as any other part of government does.”
Anderson spearheaded the effort to adopt a rule permitting cameras in court proceedings, according to the state. In a 2007 interview for the Tennessee Bar Foundation’s Legal History Project, Anderson said, “The Supreme Court and the other courts can only survive if the public trusts the courts, and one way to engender that trust is for them to understand what we do and how we do it.”
Anderson also founded the SCALES program, where justices travel across the state holding court for high school students. The SCALES program, which stands for Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students, has reached more than 25,000 students in 460 different schools and has won numerous awards, including the 2016 Sandra Day O’Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education.
The Court also took steps while Anderson was chief justice to reduce unnecessary delays in capital cases, the state said. The delay-reducing initiatives included providing law clerks to trial judges; monthly monitoring by the chief justice of all capital cases; increased standards and pay for court-appointed capital case attorneys to reduce appeals based on ineffective assistance of counsel; and proposing and obtaining funding for capital case attorneys to assist trial judges.
Other notable changes that occurred during Anderson’s tenure include an overhaul of the Code of Judicial Conduct for judges; the adoption of a sexual harassment policy for the judicial department of state government; and the adoption of court-annexed alternative dispute resolution to settle legal disagreements without litigation.
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Riley Anderson,” said Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican. “As chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Riley ushered in a new era of transparency in court proceedings. He will be remembered as a great jurist and a loyal son of the Oak Ridge community.”
(Learn more about Anderson in the story posted on the Tennessee State Courts website.)
Anderson was preceded in death by his mother, Mary Catherine Tillery Anderson; his brother, Joe Anderson; and a child, Riley Anderson Jr.
He is survived by his wife, Pandy; his children, Colin Anderson, Karin Anderson, Scott Anderson (Teresa), and Blake Anderson (Laura); stepchildren, Sarah Woods, Tim Preston, and Emma Woodworth; and grandchildren, Brooke, Braden, Bailey, and Ella Anderson, Sean Barrett, Henry and James Woods, Hannah and Brendan Woodworth, and Scott Wheeler.
Family will receive friends 1:30-2:30 on Saturday, July 14, at Click Funeral Home Farragut Chapel with a Celebration of Life service to immediately follow. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Tennessee Justice Center at www.tnjustice.org.
Click here to leave a public remembrance.
Click Funeral Home Farragut Chapel at 11915 Kingston Pike is serving the Anderson family at www.clickhfh.com.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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