Chancellor White dies at age of 76

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By Susan Sharp

Last Tuesday, the Eighth Judicial District lost a legal leader.

Chancellor Billy Joe White died at the age of 76.

He had presided over the district since 1977 after being appointed by then Gov. Ray Blanton. Following the end of his appointment White was re-elected to the bench four times.

“He was so unique,” said Bill Archer, who has served as the clerk and master in Campbell County for over 30 years. Archer said he had the privilege of sitting beside White on the bench through many cases.

“He very seldom took anything under advisement. He ruled from the bench,” said Archer.

“His philosophy was to help regular people avoid what he perceived as overbearing institutions whether it was employers or governments,” said Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton. “Since I have become a judge, I have learned to appreciate that philosophy.”

White’s legal career began when he moved to Claiborne County after graduating from the University of Tennessee. Until 1968, White practiced at the firm of Harrell and White, according to his obituary. At this point, White struck out on his own.

While White served the community in a judicial capacity, his interests were varied.

From farming to education White spent his time off the bench in a productive manner. The J. Frank White Academy, in Harrogate, was established with the assistance of White.

He also enjoyed the outdoors.

Archer laughed at the memory of the two of them out-fishing professional sportsman Bill Dance.

“He told me he was going to bring his boat and we were going fishing. Bill Dance had been taping a special on Norris Lake and he (White) wanted to go and see how he (Dance) was doing,” Archer said. “The next day we went out to Loyston Point. Bill Dance had been there three days and caught nothing. By the time it got dark, we had not caught any fish. I remember the chancellor laughed and said ‘Bill you are as good a fisherman as Bill Dance.”

The next day Dance left but White and Archer returned to the lake, catching an amount of fish that was “unbelievable.”

“Whatever, he went at, he went at it to be the best,” Archer said of White.

“The death of Chancellor White is a huge loss for the counties across the district,” said Sheriff Robbie Goins. “He was a good friend to law enforcement.”

White was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Claiborne County. He is survived by his wife, Cheryl, his five children, Joe, Jon, Paul, Laura Wilson and Kristi Muller. White also leaves behind 17 grandchildren and a sister.

On Monday the Judicial Nominating Commission announced it had begun accepting applications for the Chancellor vacancy. Until a new chancellor is selected, Sexton and Circuit Court Judge John McAfee will preside over the chancery courts across the district.