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Regional & National

Justice A.A. Birch Jr., "Tennessee's Thurgood Marshall," dies at 78

August 26th, 2011 9:54 am by Michael Cass

NASHVILLE — Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr., the first African-American elected to a Nashville judgeship and the first to lead the Tennessee Supreme Court, died Thursday. He was 78.

Former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, who was recently elected by the Metro Council to be the next Davidson County Criminal Court clerk - the first African-American to hold that role - confirmed Birch's passing.

"I was hoping he would be at my swearing in Tuesday," Gentry said in a text message this morning.

Birch retired from the bench in 2006 after 13 years on the state Supreme Court, six on the Tennessee Court of Appeals and 18 on Davidson County’s General Sessions and Criminal courts. He was chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1996-97, then won a hard-fought election to an eight-year term in 1998.

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