Judge Nations retires
By Carole Robinson
General Sessions Judge Al Nation - PHOTO BY CAROLE ROBINSON
After more than 17 years on the bench, General Sessions Judge Al Nations announced he would retire in September.
“I’ve worked in public service in some capacity for 45 years,” Nations said. “I turned 70 this year; the house is paid; I have a new granddaughter and a step-grandson – it’s just the time to do it.”
Nations said he decided “sometime ago” not to seek reelection in 2014 when his second eight-year term as judge is completed.
“It’s time for young people to take over,” he said.
Born in Silver Springs, Md., the son of a newspaperman who was in advertising, Nations’ family moved to Chicago when he was 6 and to Grosse Pointe, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, when he was 13.
He went to Chicago City College before entering Elmhurst University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education. In 1966, after graduation, he headed to Tennessee – his mother was born and raised in Marshall County.
“This was really home,” he said.
Nations was a teacher in Chapel Hill for three years before he and his wife Carol moved to Williamson County to teach in the Franklin Special School District. He remained with FSSD for 25 years wearing many hats, from teacher to principal to administrator.
In the early 1980s a friend, Elmer Davies, the father of former judge, Lee Davies, asked Nations to be the foreman of a Grand Jury. One taste of the judicial system and he was hooked and enrolled in the YMCA Law School, now Nashville Law School. Four years later Nations passed the Bar but stayed with the school system until 1995 when the County Commission approved seating a second General Sessions judge. Two people applied for the interim job – Al Nations and his good friend, Lonnie Hoover. After voting 29 times, the commission was at a stalemate. Then Juvenile and General Sessions Judge Jane Franks announced her retirement and two seats were available. The dilemma was over; Hoover was appointed to Division I and
Nations to Division II General Sessions Court.
During 17 years on the bench, there are cases that stick with a judge. For Nations, one includes the 2009 release of Antonio Forrest after his second arrest for domestic violence.
“When it came to set the bond, I thought at $25,000 I was setting it high enough he wouldn’t make bail, but he was out the next day and beat the girl (whom he already beat twice) to death with a hammer,” Nations said.
Forrest was sentenced to life without parole.
His biggest rewards and hardest decisions were as a Juvenile Court judge.
“I had the opportunity to help some children and get families on the right track and that’s very rewarding,” he said.
Then there’s the child who commits such a terrible crime he/she is tried by the state as an adult.
“To send a child into adult court is very hard, but sometimes we have no choice,” he said.
One of the funniest occurrences was the attorney who, when making a plea for a crime his client was accused of, declared the client was “abated by death.” The client then stood up and said he was, “here.”
After many years of stories, Nations is ready to hang up his robe and just enjoy life, his family, get caught up on his reading, travel some, help local political candidates with their campaigns and occasionally play farmer at his cabin in Marshall County.
“I want to remain active in community service – just not in an elected position,” he said.
Posted on: 7/31/2013