Jerry Summers: Jack Norman Sr. – Lawyer and Historian (1904-1995)
Only lawyers and older citizens can probably recognize the above name of Nashville attorney Jack Norman, Sr.
He was appointed by Tennessee Governor Frank G. Clement along with neophyte lawyer John J. Hooker, Jr. to pursue the impeachment of Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Raulston Schoolfield in the political trial that s ‘is held at the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville from May 6 to July. 13, 1958.
John Edward “Jack” Norman, Sr. was born in South Nashville in 1904 and attended public schools (Central High) and Vanderbilt Law School
Beginning in 1926, he began a career as one of the state and nation’s leading criminal defense attorneys, but also served as a special prosecutor in the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office.
He has also successfully obtained substantial jury verdicts in civil cases and served as legal counsel for the Nashville Banner newspaper and has written extensively for this publication as well as for its competitor, the Nashville Tennessean.
His list of clients and his positive results make Jack Norman one of the legal giants in Tennessee legal history. Ironically, his refusal to represent Teamsters President James Hoffa in Nashville Federal Court would result in a bribery charge against another prominent Nashville lawyer, which would contribute to his suicide and end a successful legal career.
The fight between Norman and Schoolfield in the 1958 impeachment case has been described as reminiscent of a “battle between two gladiators in the Roman arena”.
Ironically, Norman would find himself in a fee dispute with the state of Tennessee for his seven months of preparation and trial in the case. This not only hurt and angered Norman, but led to the false rumor that he could run against Frank Clement for governor in 1962.
In a resolution passed by the Tennessee legislature in honor of Jack upon his death in 1995, he reportedly said, “When I’m your lawyer, I put myself in your shoes. I’ll shoot anyone who tries to run over you. and “There is only one side to a lawsuit – my side.”
In his later years, he and his beloved wife, Carrie, moved into an apartment overlooking historic Printers Alley. This residence also contributed significantly to Jack’s colorful historical memory and love for Nashville before and after the legalization of alcohol through drink.
A great traveler of the world and a true lover of the history of Nashville, in 1984 he wrote a remarkable paperback novel. “The Nashville I Knew” is literally filled with thousands of names of people, places and events about his beloved hometown which he described in a 242 page treatise that will answer most questions any reader. interested can land on “South Athens.”
Used copies of this remarkable history lesson are still available from the usual sources on the website.
Jack Norman was once recognized as one of the five greatest orators in the legal history of the state of Tennessee.
In a bygone era when he was an old-school stage actor using fiery but eloquent words and amazing powers of persuasion, he was at the top of Davidson County’s bar list.
Jurors were in awe and fascinated with him and often watched his antics rather than listen to his opponent’s plea.
Back in the days when smoking was permitted in courtrooms, its use of its trademark, the ubiquitous cigar, was often a distraction for the prosecution or civil defense lawyer.
Rumors that he would light a “stogie” and, as it burned slowly, the spent ashes would not fall to the ground. Usually, this happened while Jack’s opponent was defending his point of view, effectively preventing the jury from listening carefully to his plea. The fact that there may have been an open paper clip inserted into the middle of the cigar to prevent the ashes from falling has never been proven (or disproved).
His legal reputation was matched only by his involvement in charitable and philanthropic activities with Masonic circles and shrines.
In 1986, the Nashville Bar Association created the Jack Norman, Sr. Award to be presented to a defense lawyer, prosecutor or judge in the greater Nashville area “whose practice or principal service relates in criminal law, demonstrates respect for the rights of all individuals in the criminal justice system, demonstrates advocacy or judicial skills necessary for the prosecution of justice, demonstrates consistent respect for the law and the profession legal profession, maintains the highest standards of professional integrity and ethical conduct, and contributes to the improvement of the legal profession and the criminal justice system – including, but not limited to, the protection of non-legal representation. or underpaid of the accused.
Jack Norman passed away in 1995 after a long and interesting career as a lawyer, historian, world traveler, devoted husband and successful father of five.
* * *
(If you have additional information on any of Mr. Summers’ articles or have any suggestions or ideas on a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at [email protected])