Chancellor Weaver Receives Face of Adversity Award from Knoxville Bar Association

December 21, 2021

The Honorable John F. Weaver, Chancellor for Part I of the Chancery Court for Knox County, was presented with the Knoxville Bar Association’s (KBA) Courage in the Face of Adversity Award at the KBA meeting, in Knoxville, on December 10.

The Courage in the Face of Adversity Award is awarded periodically to a member of the KBA who  exhibits exceptional courage, charity, grace, unselfishness and professionalism in the face of adversity. From time to time, the Professionalism Committee takes part in nominating a recipient to the Board of Governors to receive this recognition.

Chancellor Weaver suffered debilitating injuries to both of his legs in a freak accident last March, when he stepped onto the metal cylinder-type step-board on his son’s jeep.

“It was night. It had come back from the shop. I stepped up and was getting ready to step into the cabin when my left foot slipped, twisted and got stuck,” said Chancellor Weaver. “I severed my quadricep tendon. Then, a little later, when I was trying to pull myself into the driver’s seat, my right foot slipped and went under the dash. I also severed that quadricep tendon.”

Chancellor Weaver’s injuries resulted in him losing use of his lower legs.

“It’s like a puppet with the strings cut,” he said. “I went into the hospital. While I was in there, I developed a fever and had surgery on both legs. The fever continued, so I stayed eight days. Then, I went to rehab and developed another fever. It went on for another week.”

During that time, Chancellor Weaver’s legs were braced and immobilized. He was unable to bend or flex them. After two months in the rehab facility, he developed blood clots. He was transferred to another hospital for five days, before going home and starting intensive physical therapy three times a week.

“I did physical therapy for two and a half hours at a time, but didn’t progress, so I had a second operation in August. From then, I began to make progress,” said Chancellor Weaver.

Because of his injuries, Chancellor Weaver had to get creative about managing his court docket.

“During the course of the Chancellor’s long and painful recovery and rehabilitation — he was inpatient for a time, followed by a long stint of recovery at home,” said Matthew McDonald of Bernstein, Stair & McAdams, who presented the award. “He began physical therapy, which he endured as many as three times per week. During the entirety of his injury and recovery process, Chancellor Weaver never took his attention off of his judicial duties.”

In fact, Chancellor Weaver reviewed matters and signed orders from rehab and his home.

“I feel like just a new person. Not as good as before, but reborn just about,” said Chancellor Weaver. “Meantime, while I was in the nursing home, my administrator and law clerk brought things to me twice a week from the courthouse. We kept order current. My colleagues helped me with things that had to be heard. We did opinions and it helped me because, physically I was just about done for, but it helped me mentally.”

Despite what doctors called his one in a million injury, because it is very rare to have both legs affected at once, Chancellor Weaver is back to his full-time duties.

“As always, despite the injuries, he continues to outwork those around him,” said McDonald. “In the face of all this, Chancellor Weaver did not abandon his post but maintained a forward path on his road to recovery, and to once again preside in person in Part I of the Chancery Court. His service to the bench and bar, even in the face of great personal adversity, has remained steadfast.”

Chancellor Weaver said the experience has made him more grateful and appreciative of everything in his life.

 “I feel so much better, I feel like an imposter,” he said. “Just feeling better is good enough, but the award really struck my heart.”


Chancellor John F. Weaver accepts his award from Matthew McDonald, attorney with Bernstein, Stair & McAdams