As to lawyers, in law school when all of us didn't have law licenses to lose, we often went to cock fights in South Knox County. There we mixed with children and old men. We talked with ladies from the church auxiliary who sold hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. We talked with young wives and sons-in-law, who were putting "two on the gray," or "five on the little red."
The people were there for diversion, the society of friends, an evening off. They would break even, or win fifteen or lose fifteen. I like to think they were also there because they just would not be politically correct, would not buy the cultural imperialism of the sensitive elite. Would not tolerate being labeled rednecks, fools, misdemeanants, or as the newspaper liked to call them, consorters with drug dealers and mafiosi. "For the Lord’s sake," I can imagine these good people saying, "It’s the pennyrile pit in Lester’s barn. Don’t get your pants in a wad."
But even after law school, practicing lawyers still have the joy of life, while we judges tend to be a bit verklemmt--I guess "wedged" is the best English for the German word describing a constrained attitude toward life.
Of course, having your home shot up, being stalked, and being threatened in social media and otherwise are pretty good reasons to end up wedged. That’s why you won’t find my children or grandchildren in my writings by name or town.
And then there’s the running for public office. I like to say I have three doctorates--a Ph.D. (German Literature), my beloved J.D. from the University of Tennessee George C. Taylor School of Law, and a third doctorate in Elected Office Politics (EOP).
After four campaigns for those eight-year terms, my EOP degree comprises more hours of intense learning than formal training ever did. And it gave me a fourth wife, and possibly even more. (An election opponent accused me of concealing various divorces from multiple wives, one of whom was definitively stated to be "Kathy", a nurse.)
I have searched throughout Tennessee for Kathy and been unable to find her, but she lives happily in Swann family mythology. Kathy is responsible for many of my omissions and errors. Indeed, if you don’t have a Kathy in your home life, you probably should invent one.
An advanced (real) degree in any subject matter is great preparation for the practice of law. Why? Because knowing a different set of meticulous, demanding criteria helps you be relaxed about the arcane depths of legalisms.
But I do not pine away for my lost contacts with attorneys. Soon I will have a mediation practice and once again I will have daily contact with the people I like best. I look forward eagerly to being with my lawyer friends once more. Of course, we cannot get together in South Knox County: Having law degrees now, we cannot go to cock fights.
Your life has three topics. Believe me. I am going to convince you of that. When I am done, you will see yourself differently.
I want you to recognize that as you live each day, your rhythms, your decisions, the flow of your day, all oscillate among three great topics, three great forces—even when you do not know it.
Even if you have not thought about it until now, you will come to agree that politics, faith, and love are the three forces of your life.
It is going to be a fast ride. Enjoy!
About the Author
Bill Swann was a circuit court judge in Tennessee, for 32 years, presiding over the most productive trial court of record in Tennessee.
He was elected to that bench four times in partisan elections, giving him and you a piercing insider’s view of politics.
His growth in faith and love was less methodical but more important.
Retiring in 2014, Swann now mediates cases in Knoxville and surrounding counties.