Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr. to Retire After Serving Over Four Decades on the Bench

July 20, 2017

Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr., after humbly serving the citizens of Davidson County as a judge for forty-three years, has announced his retirement, effective September 1, 2017. Since first being elected to the position in 1982, Judge Wyatt has served as the Davidson County Criminal Court Judge for Division II, overseeing many of Nashville’s most serious jury trials. He also served as General Sessions Court Judge for eight years prior to his election to Criminal Court.

Karl Dean, who served as the Metro Nashville Public Defender and later became Mayor of Nashville, stated, “The people of Nashville and the State of Tennessee are grateful for Judge Wyatt’s extraordinary service. Judge Wyatt’s decency and fairness make him the very model of a great judge.”

Judge Wyatt has long been held as one of the most respected jurists not only in Davidson County, but in the State of Tennessee as a whole, as reflected by his service as a member of the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary and the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Judicial Conference. Further, he has served on the Board of Directors of the Nashville Bar Association, and in 2005, he was awarded the Bar Association’s Jack Norman Sr. Award for excellence in criminal law. Judge Wyatt also served as Presiding Judge for General Sessions Court from 1978 to 1980 and for the Davidson County Trial Courts from 1986 to 1987. His successful career and noted popularity are evidenced by his election record, as he was re-elected to his current position in 1990, 1998, 2006, and 2014.

Judge Steve Dozier, a fellow Criminal Court Judge said, “In my mind, Judge Wyatt is the most humble, just, merciful and well-respected jurist in Tennessee. It has been an honor and privilege to work for him, to practice in his court, and for the last twenty years, to work alongside him in the Criminal Court of Davidson County. Nashville is a better place because of his service.”

Although Judge Wyatt enjoys an outstanding reputation for his legal work, he is equally known for treating all who appear in his courtroom with fairness, dignity, and compassion.

“More than any judge I know, Randall Wyatt has been the rare combination of legal excellence and sensitivity to the rights of all people while on the bench. His long, distinguished career establishes a wonderful example for other jurists to follow,” said Ed Yarbrough, the former United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Even before his time on the bench, Judge Wyatt has worked diligently to serve the greater good. After graduating from high school, he served four years in the United States Marine Corps. Upon returning home to Nashville, Judge Wyatt worked full time at night for seven years as a police officer with the Nashville Police Department. At the same time, he attended and graduated from Middle Tennessee State College (now Middle Tennessee State University) and subsequently Vanderbilt Law School. After graduating from Vanderbilt Law School, Judge Wyatt served as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly three years, working primarily in Minneapolis and Detroit. Judge Wyatt then returned to Nashville, where he served as an assistant district attorney and a legal advisor for the Nashville Police Department for five years before being elected to General Sessions Court. During his time as a judge, he also was a member of the evening faculty at Aquinas College from 1969 to 1992, where he taught Criminal Law and Evidence.

Yarbrough said, “Judge Randall Wyatt has served his nation as a Marine and an FBI agent; he has served our community as a police officer, assistant district attorney, police legal advisor, and now as a judge for forty-three years. More than anyone I know, he has earned the right to retire and reflect on a lifetime of outstanding service. The courthouse will not be the same without him.”

Although Judge Wyatt’s service in the Marine Corps and the FBI took him away from Middle Tennessee for a few years, Nashville has always been his home. He was born and raised in Nashville, and graduated from Father Ryan High School in 1955. He has served on the boards of a number of community organizations. Further, Judge Wyatt remains an active parishioner at St. Henry Church. He is married to his wonderful wife of fifty-three years, Kay Kohl Wyatt. They have five children, Angie, Jim, Laura, Lisa, and Vince, and eleven grandchildren.

In reflecting on his career, Judge Wyatt said, “I have enjoyed my time for the last fifty-eight years working in the criminal justice system as a police officer, FBI agent, assistant district attorney, and finally as a judge for the last forty-three years. I will greatly miss being in our court and being with the people there. I do believe the time is right for me to spend more time with my wife, children, and grandchildren. It has been a privilege to serve the people of Davidson County over the years.”

In summing up Judge Wyatt’s remarkable career, Hal Hardin, a longtime friend of Judge Wyatt and a prominent Nashville attorney, had this to say: “Judge Wyatt and I were a prosecution team in Division III, Criminal Court. I never remember him losing a case. Judges, witnesses and defendants all respected him. Juries loved him. In 1974, I became his campaign manager with the campaign slogan, ‘Just ask anybody who knows him.’ That simple statement said it all. He won overwhelmingly. Thereafter, in the Nashville Bar Association Bar poll, he received the highest percentage of favorable votes ever given to a Criminal Court Judge. The Bench, Bar and public are much better for this arbiter of justice. Randall Wyatt was an excellent, common sense prosecutor and then judge. His leadership will be missed and not forgotten.”

Judge Randall Wyatt, Jr. with his wife Kay Kohl Wyatt.