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Posted by: Suzanne Craig Robertson on Apr 23, 2019

Journal Issue Date: May 2019

One hundred thirty eight years ago this June some very determined and probably idealistic lawyers from across Tennessee gathered for the first time, organizing the Tennessee Bar Association. The place they chose, Bon Aqua, is a little south of Dickson. The following year TBA’s first annual convention was held there at the Bon Aqua Springs Resort. And why not? It offered the best in comfort of the day.
The resort, once the largest health spa and summer retreat in Middle Tennessee, was “known as the ‘Queen of the Southern Spas’ during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On the western Highland Rim, the Hickman County resort’s temperate days, cool nights, and four mineral springs offered treatment for medical conditions ranging from iron-poor blood to gout, dyspepsia and yellow fever.”1

It was not only a tad cooler there but easily accessible, too — the year before, the Nashville and Tuscaloosa Railroad Company had completed the line from Dickson to Centerville within one-half mile of the resort.
Imagine stepping off that train into the idyllic resort area with all the latest amenities, greeting lawyers from far-away Memphis or Knoxville and catching up on all the latest news that had occurred in the previous year. Every summer since, members of the association have gathered for a business meeting, education and socializing. The TBA’s annual convention is still a staple for the legal community.

Right This Way, Ladies

Fast forward to 1965’s Nashville convention where the TBA Auxiliary hosted an “Old South Tea” at the Capitol, as well as a Ladies’ Luncheon and Show at Belle Meade Country Club, which was held at the same time as the Lawyers’ Luncheon, which as you can guess, only involved men.
It’s a little different now, as the women are not carted off to a separate event while their husbands tend to the important work of the association. In fact, this year as in several years past, a woman, Sarah Y. Sheppeard, will be sworn in as president!
In 1966, registration for the Chattanooga convention was $25, with an extra $4 fee for the Lawyer’s Luncheon. The Ladies’ Cold Buffet was $2.75 and the Ladies’ Luncheon at the Pan-O-Ram Club up on Lookout Mountain was $4. The prices this year are a tad higher, but the value is every bit as good or better.

The Same, Yet Different

Meeting-space options have steadily improved since those early days, what with the advent of air conditioning and more types of transportation. The annual convention now rotates locations from west to middle to east Tennessee and back again. This June it will be in Nashville, at the Renaissance Hotel, in the heart of downtown.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance and excitement of comraderie as the business of the association is conducted and bonds are strengthened.With today’s technology and conveniences, you don’t have to wait a year to keep up on the news of the association and your colleagues, but, as it was in 1881, it’s still good to see them in person and reconnect.
Learn more on page 13 and at

— Suzanne Craig Robertson

1. Bon Aqua Springs,” by Nancy L. Adgent, Tennessee Encyclopedia, March 2018.