The Tennessee judiciary is mourning the loss of retired 20th Judicial District Judge Seth Walker Norman, who passed away on September 25 at the age of 89. Judge Norman served as a criminal court judge in Nashville from 1990 until his retirement in 2018. He is often considered the father of the state’s recovery court system.
Judge Norman established the groundbreaking Davidson County Drug Court (DC4) in 1996. It was one of the first recovery courts in the country. In 1998, the program started the first court-operated residential drug court in the United States. He also founded the 13th Judicial District Recovery Court in 2011 and the Morgan County Residential Recovery Court in 2013. Today, there are 82 recovery courts in Tennessee, including several specialized courts focused on Veterans, juveniles, and other special populations.
Judge Norman was a Nashville native and the fourth of five children of Jack and Carrie Norman. After attending John B. Ransom grade school, Judge Norman graduated from Duncan Preparatory School for Boys. Shortly after enrolling at Vanderbilt University, he left college to enlist in the United States Air Force. He served from 1953 to 1957, including in the Korean War and missions in Southeast Asia. He was a navigator on B-29, C-47, C-119, C-118, B-26, C-54, SA-16 and C-124 planes and traveled to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He continued his service in the Tennessee Air National Guard until 1965.
Judge Norman graduated from the Nashville School of Law and gained his law license in 1962. While in law school, he worked as a deputy clerk in the Davidson County General Sessions Court Clerk’s office.
In 1960, Judge Norman was elected president of the Davidson County Young Democrats. Soon after, he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives. He was a member of the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee. He was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention and served on the Democratic National Platform Committee.
Judge Norman was in private legal practice at the law office of Jack Norman, Sr., his father, for 28 years.
Since his election to the bench in 1990, Judge Norman amassed a long list of accomplishments and awards. He served in a number of different capacities on a number of different government committees and councils over the years, including the United States Department of Education’s Advisory Committee on Safe and Drug Free Schools and former Governor Phil Bredesen’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Among his many awards and honors are a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug, and other Addiction Services (TAADAS), his 2018 induction into the Nashville Bar Foundation, the Nashville Bar Association’s Jack Norman Award in 2016, the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals Judges’ Award in 2015, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nashville Prevention Partnership in 2011, to name just a few.
Judge Norman was a member of the Corinthian Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite, and the Al Menah Shriners.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Donnie Creighton Norman; parents, Jack and Carrie Norman; brothers, Robert Sneed Norman, Jack Norman, Jr., and Julian Norman. Survived by his children, Jay Norman, Frances Norman Scott, and Jack Norman (Kerry); grandchildren, Seth Thomas Norman (Andrea), Jason Walker Norman, Ross McMillan Scott, Carrie McClain Norman Lamb (Brandon), Jackson Norman (Whitnie), William Dylan Norman, and Jenni Grace Norman; great-grandchildren, Olivia Emerson, Laurel Grace, Jack, Jett, Josie, Hayes, Layla, and Marlow; sister, Carolyn Norman Tune.
Visitation will be at Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home Thursday, September 28th from 3-8 p.m. Services will be conducted at Woodmont Christian Church, 3601 Hillsboro Pk. Nashville, TN 37215, Friday, September 29th at 1pm with visitation 1 hour prior. Honorary Pallbearers: DC 4, Morgan County Residential Recovery Court, Womens Residential Recovery Court Alumni, Board of Nashville Recovery Court Support Foundation, Judge Angelita Dalton, Judge Mike Pemberton, Judge Don Elledge, Judge Gary McKenzie and other members of the judiciary, Governor Phil Bredeson, Governor Bill Haslam, Governor Bill Lee, Commissioner Marie Williams, Commissioner Doug Varney, Commissioner Tony Parker, Commissioner Derek Schoefield, Commissioner Bill Gibbons, and the Honorable Scott Burns. In lieu of flowers please make memorials in Judge Norman's name to the Nashville Recovery Court Support Foundation, 1300 Division St. Suite 209 Nashville, TN 37203.