Judge Dinkins served on the Tennessee Court of Appeals from 2008 until his retirement in 2022.
On the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Judge Dinkins meticulously authored hundreds of appellate opinions and heard thousands of cases on civil law issues. His kindness was on full display in 2019 when a video of him holding a new attorney’s toddler while she took her oath went viral and was viewed by millions across the country.
Before he was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, Dinkins was a Part IV chancellor on the Davidson County Chancery Court from 2003 to 2008.
A native of Nashville, Dinkins earned his undergraduate degree from Denison University in 1974 and his J.D. at Vanderbilt Law School in 1977. He spent 18 years in private practice with the law firm headed by prominent civil rights advocate and former state senator Avon Williams.
During his time in private practice, Dinkins was the lead attorney on the Nashville school desegregation cases as well as other high-profile civil rights and discrimination cases. He was the cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the cooperating attorney for the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
He practiced with the law firm of Dodson Parker Dinkins and Behm from 1999 to 2003, serving as counsel to the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency and to Fisk University.
“Judge Richard Dinkins was a pioneer and a treasured colleague,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Holly Kirby, who served with Judge Dinkins on the Court of Appeals. “Tennessee is a better place today because of his lifelong work on civil rights, especially in education and employment. Throughout his career, he stood for equality. The Court extends its deepest sympathy to his family and colleagues.”
He was recognized for the Nelson C. Andrews Distinguished Service Award from the Nashville Public Education Foundation for his “fierce advocacy for civil rights in public education,” his “exemplary commitment to service,” and as “a pillar of civic leadership in Nashville.”
He received the Freedom Fighter Medal from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and was awarded the William M. Leech Jr. Public Service Award from the Tennessee Bar Association.
Judge Dinkins was a member of the American, National, Nashville, and Napier-Looby Bar Associations, and served on the Napier-Looby board of directors for two years before serving as vice president in 1984 and president in 1985. He served on the board of governors for the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association and on the board of directors of the Nashville Bar Association. He was a member of the Commercial Law Section of the National Bar Association. He was a barrister of the Harry Phillips Inn of Court starting in 1990 and became a master in 2005. He was a Fellow of the Tennessee Bar Association Foundation.
Dinkins was born in Nashville, where his father, the late Rev. Charles L. Dinkins Sr., was pastor of First Baptist Church in East Nashville. In 1960, his family moved to Memphis, where his father served as president of Owens College.
Judge Dinkins is survived by his children, Lachanta Lampkin (Dr. S.L.), Zuri Walker, and Ian Dinkins; grandchildren Lariah Hayes and Kennedy Potter; and brother Ken Dinkins.
A memorial service for Judge Dinkins will be held at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill on Saturday, Oct. 21. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. with the service following at 11 a.m.