Office History

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Office History


The District Attorney's office in Nashville traces its prosecutorial lineage back to Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.  Jackson the son of Presbyterian scots-irish immigrants Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina on March 15, 1757; read law in North Carolina and eventually moved to the western-most part of what was then North Carolina, later Tennessee, in 1787.  Only a few years before, in 1784, Nashville had been recognized officially as a settlement by the North Carolina legislature.  When Jackson arrived, it was a lawless town in need of a forceful and energetic prosecutor, and he was appointed to that position by Judge John McNairy in 1788.  Two years later, the United States Congress passed an act that separated Tennessee from North Carolina and made it a territory.  The legislation further appointed a territorial governor and named Andrew Jackson as the Attorney General for the Mero District, as the area was known at the time.  Jackson held this position until June 1, 1796 when Tennessee formally became a state, and Jackson was then elected its first congressman.  Jackson later became a national war hero during the War of 1812 and eventually parlayed his prominence into the presidency.


Almost thirty years later, another famous American began his public career as District Attorney of Nashville.  In 1818 Sam Houston became the city’s chief prosecutor and served for two years.  He went to Congress and was Governor of Tennessee before moving to Texas where he led the fight for independence.  Houston defeated the army of Mexican general Santa Anna in a stunning victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.  He later became president of the Republic of Texas.  When Texas became a state, Houston was one of its first two senators and later its governor.


James Rains (sometime spelled Raines) was born in Nashville and graduated from Yale University in 1854.  He returned to study the law and became District Attorney in 1860.  When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in April 1861 as a private in the Confederate Army.  Over the next eighteen months, he performed with courage and distinction ascending to the rank of brigadier general in November 1862.  Eight weeks later, Rains was shot and killed instantly while leading his brigade in an attack against Union forces at the Battle of Stones River in Murfreesboro, TN.


R. S. Tuthill was born in Illinois but early in this legal career served as District Attorney in Nashville.  Afterward, he returned to his home state and became the City Attorney for Chicago, and later, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.  He culminated his legal career by presiding over the first juvenile court in the United States in 1899.  Judge Tuthill pioneered the approach that a juvenile court’s responsibility was first to focus on the welfare of the child and then to take into account the welfare of the community.  He had considerable influence in this emerging field, and by 1925, all but two states had followed suit establishing juvenile courts.  This approach to juvenile justice continued until the early 1960s when courts, including the United States Supreme Court, began extending due process protections to juvenile defendants.


Other former prosecutors also went on to distinguished careers.  G. W. L. Marr, A. J. Caldwell, Richard Atkinson and Carlton Loser were U. S. Congressmen.   Alfred Balch, graduated from Princeton in 1805 and became District Attorney four years later.  A friend of Andrew Jackson, he was appointed Commissioner of the Indian Treaties during Jackson’s presidency.  In 1840, President Van Buren appointed him a federal district court judge in the State of Florida.  William B. Bate served in the U. S. Army during the Mexican War and was a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  Later, he became governor of Tennessee and finally United States Senator until his death in 1905.  


J. Carlton Loser was Nashville’s longest serving District Attorney holding office from 1934 until 1956 when he was elected to Congress where he served until 1962.  Thomas H. Shriver had the second longest tenure as the city’s chief prosecutor from 1966 until 1987.  Held in high esteem by the legal profession, Shriver was appointed a criminal court judge after a previous judge resigned in disgrace.  He held that position until his untimely death a decade later.


A complete list of the District Attorneys of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee appears below:  



Andrew Jackson 1788 - 1796
Howell Tatum 1796 - 1797
John C. Hamilton 1797 - 1807
G. W. L. Marr 1807 - 1809
Alfred Blach 1809 - 1815
William R. Hess 1815 - Nov. 1815
Thomas Washington 1815 - 1818
Samuel Houston 1818 - 1820
Andrew Hayes 1820 - 1824
John R. Nelson 1824 - 1836
John B. McCormack 1836 - 1842
George W. Allen 1842 - 1845
Nathaniel Baxter 1846 - 1848
Robert C. Foster 1849 - 1851
George G. Bradford 1852 - 1854
William B. Bate 1855 - 1859
James E. Raines 1860 - 1861
L. M. Temple 1861- 1862
George J. Stubblefield 1863 - 1866
R. S. Tuthill 1866 - 1869
A. J. Caldwell 1869 - 1873
W. H. Washington 1873 - 1886
Moses R. Priest 1886 - 1890
Laps D. McCord 1890 - 1891
Robert Vaughn 1891 - 1902
E. A. Price 1902 - 1906
F. M. Bass 1906 - 1908
Jeff McCarn 1908 - 1909
A. B. Anderson 1909 - 1919
G. B. Kirkpatrick 1919 - 1926
Richard Atkinson 1926 - 1934
Carlton Loser 1934 - 1956
Harry Nichol 1956 - 1966
Thomas H. Shriver 1966 - 1987
Victor S. (Torry) Johnson III 1987 -



Office of the District Attorney General
Washington Square, Suite 500
222 2nd Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37201 - 1649
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. M - F
Phone (615) 862-5500 | Fax (615) 862-5599
Non-Discrimination Policy