Judge Larry E. Potter
Judge Larry E. Potter has lived in Memphis for over 35 years and is a well-known leader and judicial innovator of our city. He was appointed to a City Court Judge position in 1982 at the age of 35, becoming one of the youngest judges to ever serve on the bench. He was elected to his first full term in 1983 and since then, has been overwhelmingly reelected to 3 additional terms, diligently serving our city and county court systems for over 30 years.
Judge Potter was born in Nashville and lived in Humphreys County. When he was 8 years old his family moved to Milan, Tennessee, where he attended grade school and high school, graduating in 1965. He continued his education at the University of Tennessee – Martin, graduating in 1969 with a Bachelors of Arts in Education/History. He began his career as a teacher at East Elementary School in Lyles, Tennessee, and at the age of 23 was promoted to Principal. He returned to college in 1972 at Austin Peay University and received his Masters Degree in Education Administration.
In 1973 Judge Potter went to work for state government serving under Personnel Commissioner Jane Hardaway as a management consultant. In 1974 Commissioner Hardaway left state government to run for the Public Service Commission. She selected Judge Potter to serve as her middle Tennessee field representative. After the campaign, he opted to continue his education and fulfill a life-long dream of becoming a lawyer.
In 1975 Judge Potter entered the University Of Memphis Law School, following in the footsteps of his brother Jerry, who graduated from the same school in 1975. Judge Potter received his Juris Doctorate degree in 1977, and after passing the bar exam began practicing law.
Prior to taking the bench, Judge Potter served as an Assistant City Public Defender, Chief Public Defender, Assistant City Prosecutor, and Assistant City Attorney.
He was appointed by Mayor Wyeth Chandler to the City Court Bench Division 2 in 1982. During this first year, Judge Potter helped administratively create the Memphis Environmental Court. According to Keep America Beautiful, this was the first environmental court in Tennessee and the third such court in the United States. Many of the concepts that are now standard to this type of court in America were designed and developed under his leadership. CNN described him as a “national role model”.
In 1991, Judge Potter helped write a law that created a county wide Environmental Court with injunctive authority to strongly deal with environmental problems confronting Memphis and Shelby County. Their efforts were a dramatic success, and by year-end, the Tennessee State Legislature established the Shelby County Environmental Court, making it the first countywide court of this type in the nation.
Judge Potter travels and consults frequently, working with many major cities in America helping establish Environmental Courts. He is widely considered among his peers to be the “Father of Environmental Courts” in America.
Judge Potter is also active in our community. He has served on the Governor’s Environmental Advisory Council, including several years as Chairman. He serves on the boards of the Mid-South Fair, Deaf Connect, Shelby County Retirement Board, and Keep TN Beautiful. He has been both a deacon and an elder in the Presbyterian Church of America, and is currently a member of Independent Presbyterian Church. He is firmly committed to giving back to a community that has been so good to him and his family; he embodies and personifies the term “public servant”.
In 2006 Judge Potter received the Iron Eyes Cody Award, the most prestigious lifetime achievement award in raising public awareness and growing environmental compliance into the judicial system of America. Most recently, Judge Potter received the Memphis Rotary Club’s 2007 Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Award which recognizes distinguished work by public servants of the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County.
Judge Potter is a loving husband and father to his wife Patti and their three adult children, Jason Potter, Erin Potter Kerr, and Mary Kathryn Yeiser. He enjoys spending as much time as he can with his three grandchildren, Grace, Sam, and Blythe.
During the 35 years he has lived in Memphis, Judge Larry E. Potter has proved to be a leader, judicial innovator, and a man of great wisdom and compassion for the citizens that he serves. He truly is a “treasure of our city.”