Retired Honorable Judge Richard H. Dinkins
1952 - 2023
Obituary of Retired Honorable Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Richard H. Dinkins was born in Nashville, TN on August 30, 1952 while his mother, the late Ann Tyler Dinkins and father, the late Reverend Charles L. Dinkins, Sr., served as pastor of First Baptist Church in East Nashville. In 1960, the family moved to Memphis, TN where Richard and his two brothers Charles Jr. and Kenneth (Ken) grew up and while his father served as President of Owen College (now LeMoyne Owen College). The youngest of three, Richard often shared that a pivotal moment in his life was when his entire family had an opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At 10 years old, his passion for, and pursuit of, civil rights and liberty for all through the law was set after meeting Dr. King. Upon completing his undergraduate degree at Denison University (1974, Granville, Ohio), he returned to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University Law School, obtaining his J.D. in 1977.
As a third-year law student, Dinkins had an opportunity to clerk for Civil Rights legend, State Senator Avon N. Williams, Jr. It was here that he first became involved in the consolidated desegregation case for Nashville Public Schools that greatly influenced the well-being of schoolchildren of all races, creeds and color. The duo of Williams & Dinkins worked together for over 20 years and during this tenure, Judge Dinkins was the lead attorney in Nashville public school desegregation cases, where he successfully represented the plaintiffs, as well as other high-profile civil rights and discrimination cases.
In 1999 Williams & Dinkins merged with Dodson, Parker & Behm with an emphasis, expressed by Dinkins, "to serve persons and issues that are not generally part of the mainstream." During his tenure at Dodson, Parker, Behm & Dinkins, Attny. Dinkins served as counsel to the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency and to Fisk University.
Judge Dinkins was then appointed (2003) and consecutively elected (2004, 2006) to serve as Part IV Chancellor on the Davidson County Chancery Court until 2008, when former Governor Phil Bredesen appointed him to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. He was the first African American to serve on the Tennessee Court of Appeals through appointment first and then elected (2008, 2014) where he served until his retirement in 2022. On the bench, Judge Dinkins meticulously authored hundreds of appellate opinions and heard thousands of cases on civil law issues.
He served countless organizations throughout his career and found happiness giving back to the community. This began at an early age when he began by serving as Vice President of the Black Alumni Association at Denison, then as a Career Advisor, and later as a student internship sponsor. In a constant quest to ensure the balance of civil rights, Richard was also honored to serve as an observer of the first elections of the Republic of Namibia in 1989, after the abolishment of apartheid. In 1993, he also traveled to Israel as part of a national group of African American community leaders.
Judge Dinkins was a member of the American, National, Nashville, and Napier-Looby Bar Associations. Following in the footsteps of Williams - as well as family members, Attnys. R.B.J. Campbelle, Sr. & Jr. – Dinkins served on the Napier-Looby board of directors for two years before serving as Vice President in 1984 and President in 1985. He also served on the Board of Governors of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association and on the board of directors of the Nashville Bar Association. He was a member of the Commercial Law Section of the National Bar Association. He was a barrister of the Harry Phillips Inn of Court starting in 1990 and became a master in 2005. He was a Fellow of the Tennessee Bar Association Foundation.
With an illustrious career, Judge Dinkins also ensured service to his profession, political, spiritual and personal aspects of life including serving as Cooperating Attorney for the NAACP legal Defense Fund, Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project. He was a member of the Finance Council of the Tennessee Democratic Party, Commissioner of the Davidson County Election Commission and Trustee of First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill (FBCCH) until 2013. He also served as secretary for several years, was ordained as a deacon in 2013 and was recently inducted as Deacon Emeritus. He was chairman of the Jubilee Drive from 2012 until its completion in 2017, which successfully paid off the church’s debt of $1.85 million. He also served in various leadership roles with organizations including Legal Aid Society, The Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Jazz & Blues Society, LEAD Public Schools, Oasis Center, Tennessee Alliances for Legal Services and countless others. An alumnus of Leadership Nashville, Dinkins also served as an adjunct professor at Lipscomb University’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society.
Judge Dinkins also received numerous awards and accolades, including Outstanding Young Man of America (1986), Distinguished Service Award of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (1989), Civil Rights Leadership Award of the Nashville NAACP (1991), Liberty Bell Award from the Nashville Bar Association (2001), William M. Leech, Jr. Public Service Award from TN Bar Association (2004), Dr. Charles E. Kimbrough Medal of Honor from the Nashville NAACP (2017), the Francis S. Guess Bridge to Equality Award from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (2018), the Nelson C. Andrews Distinguished Service Award for his “fierce advocacy in civil rights in public education ” from the Nashville Public Education Foundation (2019) along with the Freedom Fighter Medal from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.
Judge Dinkins carried a passion for serving with a quiet intentionality. He taught others how to lead with compassion and a deliberate pursuit of truth, equality and excellence. This was on full display in a moment that ‘went viral’ in 2019 as Dinkins held the 1-year-old son of Attny. Julian Lamar, a former law student from Belmont Univ. who had clerked for him and had asked Judge Dinkins to swear her in once she passed the bar exam. He impacted the lives of countless people including legal professionals and administrators, law students and attorneys during his professional tenure.
Judge Dinkins is preceded in death by his mother Ann Tyler Dinkins, father Rev. Charles L. Dinkins, Sr. and brother Charles L. Dinkins, Jr. He is survived by his children LaChanta Richelle Lampkin (Dr. SL Lampkin), Zuri Walker and Ian Dinkins; grandchildren Lariah Hayes and Kennedy Potter; and brother Ken Dinkins.
Devoted loved ones: Charlotte Dinkins, Lillie Hayes, Campbelle family, Betty Dinkins-Miles, Angela Lawson, Margaret Behm, Martha Tria, Travenia Holden, Patsy Petway, Gwen Vincent, Clara Elam, Rev. Joe Ella Darby, Donna Sullivan-Harper, Mike Lee, Susan Short Jones, Vincent Williams, Judge I'Ashea Myles, Tennessee Court of Appeals Judges, Stephanie Holliday, and Spruell Driver.
He also leaves a host of family and friends who will remember his kindness, focus and generosity.
IN MEMORY OF JUDGE DINKINS
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands in Judge Dinkins’ honor.
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In Loving Memory
Retired Honorable Judge Richard Dinkins
1952 - 2023
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