The State of Tennessee is mourning the loss of retired Court of Appeals Judge Richard H. Dinkins, who passed away on October 1 at the age of 71. Judge Dinkins served on the Court of Appeals from 2008 until his retirement in 2022. Previously, he was a chancellor in Davidson County from 2003 to 2008.
“Judge Richard Dinkins was a pioneer and a treasured colleague,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Holly Kirby, who served with Judge Dinkins on the Court of Appeals. “Tennessee is a better place today because of his lifelong work on civil rights, especially in education and employment. Throughout his career, he stood for equality. The Court extends its deepest sympathy to his family and colleagues.”
Judge Dinkins was born in Nashville while his father, the late Reverend Charles L. Dinkins, Sr., served as pastor of First Baptist Church in East Nashville. Reverend Dinkins served as president of the Nashville branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Judge Dinkins began first grade in Nashville public schools just as school desegregation started. Later in his career, he would continue the NAACP’s fight for equality in Nashville schools. In 1960, the family moved to Memphis where Reverend Dinkins served as president of Owens College.
Judge Dinkins earned his undergraduate degree from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. He returned to Nashville for law school, graduating from Vanderbilt University in 1977. He joined Civil Rights legend State Senator Avon N. Williams, Jr. in practice and the duo worked together for over 20 years. During his time in private practice, Judge Dinkins was the lead attorney the Nashville school desegregation cases as well as other high-profile civil rights and discrimination cases. He was the cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the cooperating attorney for the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
He was recognized for the Nelson C. Andrews Distinguished Service Award from the Nashville Public Education Foundation for his “fierce advocacy for civil rights in public education,” his “exemplary commitment to service,” and as “a pillar of civic leadership in Nashville.” He received the Freedom Fighter Medal from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, and was awarded the William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award from the Tennessee Bar Association.
On the bench, Judge Dinkins meticulously authored hundreds of appellate opinions and heard thousands of cases on civil law issues. His kindness was on full display in 2019 when a video of him holding a new attorney’s toddler while she took her oath went “viral” and was viewed by millions across the country.
Judge Dinkins was a member of the American, National, and Nashville Bar Associations; member, Napier-Looby Bar Association, Board of Directors 1981 – 83, Vice President 1984, President 1985; former member, Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, Board of Governors; member, Board of Directors, Nashville Bar Association 1988 – 1991; former member, Commercial Law Section, National Bar Association; Barrister, Harry Phillips Inn of Court 1990-02, Master 2005 – present; member, Board of Directors, Nashville Bar Association 2006 – 08; Fellow, Tennessee Bar Association Foundation.
Judge Dinkins is survived by his children Lachanta Lampkin, Zuri Walker and Ian Dinkins; grandchildren Lariah Hayes and Kennedy Potter; son-in-law Dr. SL Lampkin; and brother Ken Dinkins, as well a host of family and friends.
Services for Judge Dinkins will be held on Saturday, October 21 at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. with the service following at 11 a.m.