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Judge Larry E. Potter

Judge Larry E. PotterJudge Larry E. Potter has lived in Memphis for over 40 years and is a well-known leader and judicial innovator of our city. He was elected to his first full term in 1983, and since then, has been overwhelmingly re-elected to three additional terms, serving our city and county court systems for over 33 years.

Judge Potter was born in Nashville and lived in Humphreys County. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Milan, Tennessee.  Upon graduating high school in 1965, he continued his education at the University of Tennessee – Martin, graduating in 1969 with a Bachelor 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 Master's 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 continued his education and fulfilled 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 also graduated from there. Judge Potter received his Juris Doctorate degree in 1977.

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 at the age of 35, becoming one of the youngest judges to serve on the bench. During this first year, Judge Potter helped 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.

In 1991, Judge Potter helped write a law that created a county-wide Environmental Court with injunctive authority to deal with environmental problems confronting Memphis and Shelby County.  By year-end, the Tennessee  Legislature established the Shelby County Environmental Court, making it the first county-wide court of this type in the nation.

Judge Potter travels and consults frequently.  He has worked with many major cities in America helping to 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 Shelby County Pension 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 Advent Presbyterian Church.

Judge Potter has been honored locally, statewide, and nationally.  In 2006, the Keep Tennessee Beautiful National Federation honored him with the Iron Eyes Cody Award, a lifetime achievement award in raising public awareness and growing environmental compliance into the judicial system of America.  Judge Potter also received the Memphis Rotary Club’s Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Award and in 2009, the Tennessee Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Program recognized his efforts by presenting him with the Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Judge Potter is married to Patti Yeiser Potter, and the father of their three adult children, Jason Potter, Erin Potter Kerr, and Mary Kathryn Yeiser.  He has three grandchildren, Grace and Sam Kerr, and Blythe Potter.

During the 40 years he has lived in Memphis, Judge Larry E. Potter is a proven leader, judicial innovator, and man of great wisdom and compassion for the citizens that he serves.


Vasco A. Smith, Jr. County Administration Building • (901) 222-2300
160 North Main Street Memphis TN 38103
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