Hometown Legal History

No series of columns on Tennessee legal history would be complete without one relating to my hometown, at least no series written by me. By hometown, I do not refer to Chattanooga. While I have been a proud member of the Chattanooga Bar for 30 years and have lived on Signal Mountain for 24 years, my true hometown is Soddy-Daisy, which lies in Hamilton County to the north of Chattanooga.  

Admittedly, it is one of the more unusual place names in our great state, but it simply is the combination of the names of two smaller communities, Soddy and Daisy, which grew together after Hamilton County built a high school to serve both in 1938. As one of my professors at the University of the South once remarked, it is not unlike the two communities of Buda and Pest in Hungary forming the great capital of Budapest, although Soddy and Daisy do not have the significant watery boundary of the Danube to separate them.  

As for the two names, the City of Soddy-Daisy’s web site states:

There are various tales about how Soddy and Daisy were named. One maintains Soddy is an anglicization of the Indian “Tsati” meaning sipping place. With Soddy Lake, the many creeks and streams, this could be true. A second states that Welch inhabitants corrupted the name of William Sodder’s Trading Post to “Soddy.” The community of Daisy was named after Daisy Parks, daughter of Thomas Parks, who was the vice-president of the Tabler-Clendys Coal Company.

I have often wondered if Daisy Parks had the looks or other virtues sufficient to justify having such an important place named after her. Incidentally, it still matters among the older citizens as to which of the two communities one hails from. For the record, I am from Soddy.  

Being in Hamilton County, Soddy-Daisy has no real bar (as in a group of lawyers), although there is one permanent and a couple of part-time law offices there. I am informed that civil rights lawyer Maurice Weaver, whom I mentioned in my February column, hailed from Soddy, where his family owned a hotel near the railroad.  Currently, the most senior member of the Chattanooga Bar who hails from Soddy-Daisy is Judge Clarence Shattuck, first in the class of 1953 at Soddy Daisy High School. More often than not, I will see Judge Shattuck and Arnold Stulce Jr. (Class of 1970 and married to my first cousin) visiting at the community funeral home, where we almost constitute a quorum for an impromptu meeting of what would be the Soddy-Daisy Bar, if one existed.   

Turning to my emphasis on history, there actually have been several significant legal developments in Soddy-Daisy.   Poe’s Tavern, now in Daisy, was Hamilton County’s first courthouse and county seat. The case that overruled the old M’Naghten insanity test, Graham v. State, 547 S.W.2d 531  (Tenn. 1977), arose in Soddy-Daisy, as one of our then-police officers, Larry Sneed (now married to my first cousin on the other side), survived being shot by a disturbed young man who then took Sneed’s Soddy-Daisy patrol car on a joyride in 1974. As a result of a sheriff’s deputy’s chase through Daisy, the Supreme Court ruled in Haynes v. Hamilton County, 883 S.W.2d 606 (Tenn. 1994), that a government had possible legal exposure for persons hurt as a result of a high-speed chase. And in a suit that stemmed from former City Judge Jerry Summers’ termination, Summers v. Thompson, 764 S.W.2d 182 (Tenn. 1988), the Supreme Court began the process that eventually required that city judges who exercise state jurisdiction be elected.  

I have been Soddy-Daisy’s city attorney for more than 21 years, and have since been hired to represent the municipalities of Collegedale and Lakesite. Unfortunately, I have done little to add to our state’s jurisprudence during that interval, at least in that capacity. The best I can claim is that I defeated a pro se group of annexation opponents in Council for the Town of Green’s Mill v. Eaves, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 5501 (6th Cir. 1996). There, the plaintiffs claimed they were actually a unit of The Original Cherokee Nation, and that the city had no legal right to annex into their territory, as such might somehow affect their water supply. To the best of my knowledge, Soddy-Daisy’s subsequent partial dominion over this area has not resulted in any adverse effect in that regard.

Because the position of Soddy-Daisy’s city attorney is often one of peril, I have sometimes faced odd legal claims. The most remarkable was in Marceaux v. Southerland, 2006 Tenn. App. LEXIS 672 (July 20, 2006). There, the Court of Appeals upheld Chancellor Frank Brown’s ruling that I (and others) did not violate the Emancipation Proclamation in connection with the arrest of one Basil Marceaux, one of Soddy-Daisy’s more litigious (and famous) residents.[1] Although my skilled counsel and friend Ron Wells got a quick dismissal of Mr. Marceaux’s somewhat original claim, with my great interest in the Civil War, I have to say I relished the idea of taking the stand and, under oath, denying that I had ever taken the position that persons who were in servitude in states in rebellion against the United States government on Jan. 1, 1863, were not “henceforth and forever free.”[2]    

Notes

  1. Mr. Marceaux attained his 15 minutes of fame in July of last year, when a YouTube video of his interview as a gubernatorial candidate by a Nashville television station went viral. (“I’m BasilMarceaux.com”). I have since seen a YouTube video where Marceaux reviewed a movie for a late-night talk show.
  2. Which would have to be qualified that such was not the case in Tennessee. At Andrew Johnson’s request, Abraham Lincoln specifically exempted Tennessee from the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. Tennessee’s slaves were not officially freed until January 1865.