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Judge Larry H. Puckett Retiring From The Bench

Tenth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Larry H. Puckett will retire from the bench at the end of June, after nearly 24 years serving the people of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, and Polk Counties. He was first appointed to the 10th Judicial District Circuit bench in 1997 by Governor Don Sundquist and won elections in 1998, 2006, and 2014.

He is stepping down a year early to allow a successor time to gain experience in the job before having to run for election in 2022.

“It’s been an honor to be a judge,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to be a judge and to be the people’s judge. They elected me to do my job, and I’m leaving early thinking it’s best for them and the district as well as for me and  my family.”

Judge Puckett himself was able to serve as judge for most of a year before he faced his first election in 1998. He said it was beneficial to have that time to ease into the job.

“I think it helped me to be on the bench a few months before the election,” he said.  “It’s always good to be around experienced judges and experienced clerks. When I decided I wasn’t going to run again, I slowly came to the conclusion I should retire and give someone the chance to become acclimated and work with the judges we have here.”

Judge Puckett grew up in Bristol, as one of five children. His mother worked in a hosiery mill and his father was a salesman.

Judge Puckett went to Bryan College in Dayton for his undergraduate studies. There he cultivated his love of history, specifically Tennessee history, learning all he could about the famous Scopes Trial and majoring in the subject that continues to be one of his primary passions.

After graduation, Judge Puckett stayed on at Bryan College as an admissions counselor for four years. During that time, in 1975, he married his wife Patty, a fellow Bryan College alum. Together, they have three grown children and six grandchildren.

At that time in his life, Judge Puckett was deciding between three possible career paths: history, seminary, or law.

“I didn’t think I could live up to the high standards of the preacher, but surely I could be at least good enough to be a lawyer,” he said wryly.

With that in mind, Judge Puckett enrolled in the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. He threw himself into his studies and graduated a semester early in December 1979.

He and Patty made the decision to move back to East Tennessee. “The hills get into your blood, so to speak,” he said.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Puckett was in private practice for 17 years with the firms of Conrad, Finnell & Associates and with Bell & Associates.

A new opportunity presented itself in 1997, when Judge Puckett left private practice to serve as an assistant district attorney in the 10th Judicial District. He was only in that position for 3 ½ months when he was appointed to the bench.

“They say I came over, drank a cup of coffee, and then went on my way,” Judge Puckett said with a laugh.

He soon found that the rural 10th Judicial District, spread between four counties, was the perfect fit for him as a judge.

“I’ve enjoyed being a servant to these people in this district,” Judge Puckett said. “Four counties, four sheriffs, four clerk’s offices— I‘ve really enjoyed working with them. I like people, and I like working with people. I think I was very suited to have the rural multi-county district.”

Judge Puckett has also greatly enjoyed working alongside his colleagues on the bench. There is a special bond that forms between those who serve as judges, he believes.

“My relationships with my fellow judges are something I have developed and will cherish going forward,” Judge Puckett said. “It’s been a pleasure to be a part of the body of folks who administer justice in this district and this state.”

Looking ahead, Judge Puckett said he and Patty intend to do some traveling and spend more time focusing on their mutual interests, which include reading, history, antiques, historic cemeteries, and sports. They also are eager to watch their grandchildren grow and develop their own interests.

“I’m really looking forward to retirement,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what I’ll end up doing. The emphasis is to come up with something more to do, but I’m not rushing into it.”