Don Paine: Legal Community Shares Thoughts, Memories

Don Paine

The death of former TBA President Donald F. Paine early Monday morning (Nov. 18) brought out many thoughts and memories from those in the Tennessee legal community who had worked with him, learned from him, served under his leadership at the TBA in 1986-1987, or had just benefitted from his friendship. Below are a compilation of some of those reactions that were posted on TBA electronic forums, social media sites or through individual messages. Feel free to add your comments to this post (you must log in to your TBA account to post) or send your comments in an email to TBAToday.

Friends will be received at Mann Heritage Chapel, 6200 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919, on Sunday (Nov. 24), from 2 to 4 p.m. Burial will be at a private service at Old Gray Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family would ask that donations be made to Legal Aid of East Tennessee, 502 S. Gay St., Suite 404, Knoxville 37902.

Read more about him in this press release from Mr. Paine's firm, Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers, LLP.


Don Paine and I first became friends when we were in grammar school. Donnie, as he was known then, was a bright student, superb athlete, and all round good guy. He went away to boarding school for his high school, but returned to the University of Tennessee as part of the class of 1961. When I left active duty with the Marine Corps and came back to the U.T. College of Law, Don had already graduated in less than three years, and at the same time, obtained a Master’s degree in English, and served as Editor in Chief of the Law Review. He started teaching at the law school and became an instant favorite of the students. I believe he would have remained in academics, but he ran into difficulty with some of the faculty and, as the story goes, was unable to continue his teaching unless he left to obtain an advanced degree (SJD). Don decided instead to enter law practice and to apply his teaching skills to assist practicing lawyers. Our legal profession became the benefactor of this career move. He became active in the organized bar and was soon serving as president of the Knoxville Bar, and later the Tennessee Bar. His research, writing and teaching made him a legend in his own time. When cancer struck, we saw the courage and strength which also marked his later life. He endured years of medical treatment, surgeries, and pain. But he remained committed to the law, teaching and writing. He was a Giant among us.

With great respect
Al Harvey, Memphis


When my father died, Don sent me a note with 4 words, "he was a good man." It was so Don and meant an incredible amount to me ... While there are so many things you can say about him -- consummate lawyer, teacher, mentor, friend, I can't think of 4 better words than "he was a good man." I will have a beer and a falafel today for Don ...

Nancy Stabell, Nashville


He was a friend and the best law professor I ever had.

Craig Fitzhugh, Ripley


He loved the law, and he loved lawyers. We are all blessed to have shared life and a profession with this extraordinary man.

Bill Haltom, Memphis


Our profession has lost a giant when Don died. I just read it in the TBA's nightly internet newsletter. Many of us served on the Board of Governors with him, and most of us went to his seminars. I went to his first one at Montgomery Park in Dickson County. There were about 25 people there and none dreamed what it would become.

Landis Turner, Hohenwald


Really, it is impossible to put into words just what Don Paine was or what he meant to all of us. His knowledge of and passion for the law, his unfailing energy, and the courage and grace with which he faced incredible adversity for so many years are all simply mindboggling. There is definitely a disturbance in the legal universe right now.

Pamela L. Reeves, Knoxville


This is absolutely heartbreaking news! I loved the fact that, while he had one of the best legal minds around and held a position of very high regard, he never lost his “commonness.” His wise counsel will be sorely missed.

Cynthia Richardson Wyrick, Sevierville


No judge, no attorney, no law professor has done more to advance the profession than our dear friend Don Paine. He received every honor, award and recognition possible but still maintained a humility that would serve as an example to us all. He acted justly at all times, loved the law, and walked humbly.

Gary Wade, Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sevierville


Don was a fine lawyer.

John Waters, Sevierville


Don was nice to a lot of people. He was the only law professor (that I know of) who took out his entire Civil Procedure Section for drinks and falafel after a final (yes, it was the last final). Though it took a few years, that night indirectly may have helped bring Carol Anne and Jason Long together. It was a really good time.

He was always funny. His examinations and crosses of baby bear before the bar were entertaining, succinct, memorable and instructive. Enough so that we willingly signed up for his class despite the 7 a.m. start time.

He was always kind. I worked for Bar/Bri in law school and sometimes had to coordinate summer lectures with him. He usually suggested that we meet at SunSpot to hash out what could've been done over the phone.  Then he'd ask if I would join him in a beer. Then somehow dinner would appear, but the check never did. That restaurant's slogan is "where neckties and tie dies unite." I always wonder if they had him in mind when they came up with it.

And by gosh he sure was a fighter. I always admired how his curiosity and intellect never dimmed, how he kept teaching, and I always read his writings in TBJ first. His voice may have let him down from time to time, but Don never could be silenced. I'll take comfort in that his voice will still ring out as his collected works are sure to be revisited, studied and cited.

As a friend said, have a beverage at lunch today for Don.

Justin Martin, Knoxville


Very sad to hear of the passing of Titan of the Tennessee Bar, lawyer and UTK law professor extraordinaire, Don Paine.

J.K. Simms, Nashville


Many of us are better attorneys, and human beings, for having known Donald Paine.

Dalen Farmer, Murfreesboro


I will forever be grateful for his bar review teaching. Don’s passing leaves a huge hole in the Bar and in many hearts!

Jackie Dixon, Nashville


Don was a giant of the profession. His presence will be missed tremendously.

John Tarpley, Nashville


So many years later, I think fondly of him getting me through the bar review. He had such a gift for educating while entertaining. I am a life long Tennessean but never understood Cocke County before Don Paine.

Irwin Kuhn, Nashville


Most of us learned most of the law we know post-law school from Don Paine. It is a great loss!

Kitty Boyte, Nashville


What a tragic loss. He was a great lawyer, educator and man. Many would not have passed the bar without Don.

Orville Almon, Nashville


Don Paine was indeed a great lawyer and educator. Not only did he possess a keen intellect and knowledge of the law, but his teaching style and wit made learning the law enjoyable and fun.

Jerry Taylor, Nashville


We collectively as lawyers in this state are a little less than we were yesterday.

Chris Varner, Chattanooga


I keep staring at the screen and hearing him talk about the rules of civil procedure and the world's greatest singer, Emmylou Harris.  I am blessed to have known him. ... Godspeed, Professor Paine.

Lisa Richter, Springfield


He was brilliant and such a special person. A huge loss for the bar and the law school and Tennessee.

Marlene Moses, Nashville


I first met Don when I was hired as a runner for his firm. The typical definition of runner took on a whole new meaning when serving documents on Paine’s unsuspecting defendants. Don often utilized his runners as process servers in the days well before pocket sized GPS units. I remember the day he walked in the office, turned towards the work room, handed me a summons and complaint and said, “take someone with you on this one and don’t hang around once you serve him.” And just like that he was gone – turned around and walked out the front door without me ever having the opportunity to ask whether he was joking. (I took someone with me.)

Soon afterwards Don and I would run into one another in the law school. Without exception Don Paine always (ALWAYS) took a moment of his time to pat me on my back, ask about my class schedule, and share a short story with me (most didn’t even involve procedure). That’s who he was – a great legal mind but an even greater gentleman who shared his wit and wisdom easily. Our community has a sizeable hole to fill, and I hope I’m doing my part.

Andrew Roskind, Knoxville


I had the distinct privilege of having Don Paine for Evidence Law. I was so intimidated by him, I am sure that I never spoke a word in the class. (Plus who had time? He lectured like lightening!) I regret never telling him how much he taught me and how much I appreciated his enthusiasm for both evidence and the practice of law. Every time I think about habit evidence, I think about DDG Kathy washing her long red hair every evening. Every time I think about hearsay, I think about Big Bear and Baby Bear. It is not often that a teacher can leave such a lasting mark with so many. I will never think about the evidentiary law without thinking of Don Paine. I will never think about donating my time without thinking of Don Paine. Thank you Professor Paine.

Jennifer Jenkins, Knoxville


I was so sorry to hear that Don Paine passed on yesterday. He was one of my mentors. May that awesome, kind, knowledgeable, sweet person RIP.

Eva Close, Nashville


We lost a good one.

Tony Duncan, Nashville


He was one of my favorite Barbri lecturers... and one of the few who could actually keep me awake while studying. Rest in Peace.

Edwin Bradford Henderson, Memphis


You know, John Smartt left us earlier this month. I reckon those two TLI/TBA/KBA/UT stalwarts are together again... most likely enjoying fab discussions with Mr Lincoln and many others...

Esther Bell, Knoxville


Our entire Bar is diminished by this loss. This is a sad day for us all.

Daniel W. Small, Ashland City


The man forgot more law than most of us will ever know.

Stewart M. Crane, Loudon


I am really sorry to read this news. I have met Don in person in TBA events. He was very warm and willing to help young practitioners as me. It is hard to believe that he has gone forever. He will be missed by me. RIP, Don!

Lucy Lu, Chattanooga


I hope St. Peter has an eternal supply of high quality beer. It will be needed. Don will be missed. RIP.

Charles W. McElroy, Nashville


Don Paine was a one of a kind lawyer. There will never be another. The Tennessee legal profession greatly benefited by his presence and will be diminished by his absence. He thought vast numbers of us what we needed to know to be good lawyers. In addition he gave me an appreciation for good beer. He will be mourned and missed.

Jim Moore, Knoxville


It made me feel very sad to learn of the passing of my good friend, Don Paine. The younger lawyers need to learn of the many contributions Don made to the legal profession over the many years of his love for the Law. If you had the opportunity to meet Don, then you are very blessed. He was a great lawyer, a fine man, and just an all around good person. He will be missed by all.

Clarence Bennett, Brentwood


Don passing on or about the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address should help us remember a great lawyer...a great teacher. I wonder what he would have said about leaving this earth on this anniversary.

Bernard Via III, Bristol


It is hard to comprehend Don is no longer here with us. I wonder if he and St. Peter had any evidentiary arguments at the pearly gates? With all due respect to St. Peter, my money is on Don. RIP, counsel, RIP.

Rebecca S. Montgomery, Nashville


I tried to tell my 16 year old yesterday, about this loss. I remembered him from teaching the bar exam prep course 20 years ago, the TLI institute, the Bar article. Words are not sufficient to explain that there are few men/people that we encounter in this world that try to make it a better place, and are as well-rounded and knowledgeable as Don Paine. With assaults on the Constitution, the judiciary, lawyers, anytime we lose a great warrior, the loss is felt, and we wonder if anyone else is willing or able to take up the cause to carry on.

Lisa C. Cothron, Lafayette


Don Paine was always willing to help a young or old lawyer solve a thorny legal problem. He was of great help to me when I was a young lawyer even though he did not know me well. He will be missed!

Evan Meade, Johnson City


What a shock it was to learn at our TLI Seminar in Chattanooga how sick Don was, and of his passing 9 short days later. Don was in law school at U.T. with my father, and, although I did not go to U.T. Law, I certainly received the benefit of the wisdom of Professor Paine when he and the late Bob Crossley (another legal giant who is sorely missed) taught me in the Crossley Bar Review course. Had it not been for Don, I would not have passed the Bar.

In the years which ensued, I could ALWAYS call on Don to discuss one of the finer, arcane points of law, or even his favorite subject, the chemical process by which barley, malt, hops and yeast interact to form the Grog of the Great. Not only was Don a helluvan advocate, he was a scholar, a gentleman...and a gentle man.

He is missed by me, and, I suppose, all of us who comprise the membership of the TBA.

Francis X. Santore Jr., Greeneville


I have always remembered that, in 1974 at a UT law school evidence class, I could go up to Mr. Paine after class when something was bothering me -- but I didn't really know what;and he would figure out what was bothering me (!) and then give a perfectly clear explanation.

Stephen J. (Steve) Church, Ridgecrest, California


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