MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Chancellor Walter L. Evans of the 30th Judicial District will retire at the end of this month, after 22 years serving the people of Shelby County in Chancery Court.
Evans grew up in Memphis, working for a sign painter as a student at Melrose High School before attending Howard University, where he studied architecture, according to information from the Supreme Court of Tennessee. He worked his way through college, and was named president of both the School of Engineering and Architecture student council and of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.
Evans met then-President Lyndon B. Johnson when he was selected to attend a dinner for student leaders at the White House.
He then continued to Howard University School of Law on scholarship after he became intrigued with law.
Evans served two years in the Army, one in Vietnam, before attending Harvard Law School on scholarship. He earned an LLM with a focus on Urban Law there in 1971, and was one of only a few African Americans in his class.
He then returned to Memphis and practiced as an attorney. In 1979, he argued and won a habeas corpus case, Parker v. Randolph, before the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 1994, City of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton asked if he would be interested in becoming a municipal judge. Evans served in that job before defeating longtime incumbent Chancellor Neal Small in the 1998 election.
Chancellor Evans has presided over numerous high-profile cases during his tenure on the court, including cases involving FedEx, the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team, and Shelby County Juvenile Court.
He has been married to his wife, Elise, since 1973. They have two adult children, Jonathan Christian Evans, an information technology specialist, and Walter Evans, II, an attorney in Shelby County.