Retired TN Supreme Court Justice Frank Drowota dies, age 79

Frank F. Drowota III, who served 25 years on the Tennessee Supreme Court before retiring in 2006, has died at age 79.

As a Nashville lawyer, Drowota was first elected to judicial position in 1970 – Davidison County Chancery Court —  and was appointed to the state Court of Appeals in 1974.

In 1980, Democrat Drowota won a seat on the Supreme Court by defeating Republican George Brown, who had been appointed to the high court by then-Gov. Lamar Alexander on a temporary basis following the sudden death of Justice Joe Henry.

He was subsequently reelected to new eight-year terms both before and after the selection of justices was shifted in 1998 from contested elections to the “Tennessee plan” that has high court judges elected on a “yes-or-no” referendum on whether they should have new terms. He served two terms as chief justice.

Upon his retirement in 2006, the Tennessee Bar Association created an annual Justice Frank F. Drowota III Outstanding Judicial Service Award and made him the first recipient of the annual award honoring a Tennessee judge for exceptional service.

Clay Stauffer, senior pastor of Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville (where the judge’s father was founding pastor), says in an email to church members that Drowota “passed away Sunday evening surrounded by his family” and that a funeral service will be held Saturday, April 21, at 3 p.m., preceded by visitation at 12:30 p.m.

4 Responses to Retired TN Supreme Court Justice Frank Drowota dies, age 79

  • David Collins says:

    Frank Drowota was one of the most Honorable, Intelligent, and Energetic persons to have ever served in our judiciary. From the time he started out as one of Davidson County’s Chancellor’s, through his tenure on the Court of Appeals, to his final ascension to the Tennessee Supreme Court, Frank Drowota always conducted himself in a competent and professional manner. I don’t know that I will ever meet the judge who can adequately match him on the bench. THANK YOU FRANK DROWOTA for all your years of unselfish service to our State.

    • Alan Highers, Presiding Judge (ret.), Court of Appeals at Jackson says:

      Frank Drowota was a friend from the time I was appointed to the appellate bench. He was always an encouragement. I looked forward to seeing him at every judicial conference. We always had a nice visit. He was a credit to the state judiciary, and he will be missed. We extend sincere sympathy to Claire and his children.

  • David Lewis says:

    I had the privilege of working with Justice Drowota as his Supreme Court Law Clerk after my graduation from UT College of Law in 1984. He is simply one of the finest people ever to serve the State of Tennessee. Young lawyers should thank him for many things, but particularly for the improvements to the practice of law, legal education and the administration of justice that he championed. He was a life-long friend and mentor.

  • Lisa Rippy McGuffey, former law clerk to Chief Justice Drowota says:

    I am so incredibly grateful for the many ways Justice Drowota has influenced my life. I first met Justice Drowota in 1992, while I was clerking for Justice Riley Anderson. During my four years clerking for Justice Anderson, I often drove him from Knoxville to Court sessions in Jackson and Memphis, and we would pick up Justice Drowota in Nashville. When Justice Drowota learned that I had been born and raised in Sumner County and eventually wanted to move back to Middle TN to be near my family, he asked me to clerk for him. I was reluctant to leave Justice Anderson, who had given me my first job after law school, but family ties won out, and I accepted Justice Drowota’s offer. What a blessing that opportunity turned out to be for me! I clerked for Justice Drowota from 1996 until his retirement in 2005. Justice Drowota was a simply a wonderful, incredible, inspiring person. He was the same in public and private. He was genuinely kind, compassionate, generous, considerate, encouraging, and caring. He had no enemies to my knowledge and was not a respecter of persons or positions. He also happened to be an outstanding, conscientious, intelligent, hardworking, fair, and impartial judge and a devoted and faithful public servant. He remained my friend and mentor after his retirement. In fact, yesterday was the first birthday in at least twenty-three years that I have not had Justice Drowota tell me what a great year I was about to have. That birthday wish was reflective of his optimistic, upbeat, and smiling attitude. He always found the best in every situation. Almost everyday I think of something Justice Drowota taught me by word or deed. Most of the time the lessons I recall concern not what Justice Drowota taught me about the law, although there are plenty of those too, but what he taught me about how to live honorably, peacefully, justly, humbly, and according to the Golden Rule. I am so thankful to have had the very great blessing and privilege of knowing and working with and calling Justice Drowota boss, and mentor, and friend for so long. I extend not only my deepest sympathies, thoughts, and prayers to his family, particularly his wife Claire whom he adored, but also my deepest thanks for sharing this wonderful man with the Tennessee judiciary and with all the citizens of the State of Tennessee.

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