(1929 - 2020)
John Davis Lee grew up working on his family farm with his seven siblings. At age 17, he enlisted in the Army to join his brothers fighting in WWII. After the war, thanks to the G.I. Bill, he attended Stetson University in Florida, graduated from East Tennessee State University where he was student body president, and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law where he was president of the student bar association. J.D. liked to joke, "I graduated second in my law school class of three students!" In 1954, while still a law student, J.D. was elected as a delegate to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention.
Always a hard worker and someone who genuinely liked people, J.D. opened his first law office in Madisonville, Tennessee. J.D. was the epitome of the Southern gentlemen lawyer. Early in his career, he successfully sued railroad companies on behalf of people injured or killed by trains. As early as the 1960s, he was a pioneer in bringing lawsuits against big tobacco companies on behalf of people injured or killed by cigarette smoke. J.D. developed a national reputation as a skillful litigator who won record-setting verdicts for his clients in medical malpractice and product liability cases. In 1978, he ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. He was also part of a group of lawyers who represent the victims in lawsuits against Iran and others who assisted the perpetrators of the September 11 terror attacks.
J.D. was a great storyteller and was admired and loved by all. Once in Knoxville a motion was being heard before Judge Taylor who was sharing his disdain to those present for the amount demanded in the case when J.D. walked into the courtroom. Judge Taylor looked up and loudly stated, "And it's all your fault Mr. Lee!" J.D. had no idea what the judge was talking about, but smiling he responded, "Yes, your Honor."
Always adventurous, J.D. was an accomplished pilot, horseman, and an avid outdoorsman who began running marathons in his 70s. At age 70, he hiked the Appalachian Trail straight through from Georgia to Maine and then, at age 75, was selected by Levi's to model their jeans.