John Hollins ’57 (BA’55) dies at 83

Jan 11, 2016

John Hollins Sr., a member of the storied Vanderbilt Law Class of 1957, died Jan. 7 in his sleep. Hollins was 83.

Read his obituary in The Tennessean.

Read his obituary in the Nashville Post.


His legal career included famously included his pro bono representation of Jeffrey Womack, the teen wrongfully accused in the 1975 murder of nine-year-old Marcia Trimble.

Hollins had retired in 2011 from his partnership at Hollins Raybin & Weissman, the firm he cofounded in 1976 with John W. Wagster ’70.

During his legal career, which spanned 54 years, Hollins served as president of the Nashville Bar Association, an assistant district attorney and a trial lawyer who practiced litigation, complex domestic relations cases and criminal cases.

Hollins was perhaps best known for his role in one of the most notorious cases in Nashville’s history, the murder of 9-year-old Marsha Trimble. On Easter Sunday in 1975, police discovered Trimble’s body in a garage near her Green Hills home after a search that had lasted more than a month. Suspicion immediately fell on Jeffrey Womack, her then-15-year-old neighbor. Womack was arrested for the killing in 1979, but ultimately not indicted, leaving him to live under the presumption of guilt for most of his adult life.

Hollins represented Womack for the next 30 years. According to his former law partner and friend, David Raybin, Hollins’ work kept Womack from being wrongfully convicted of Trimble’s murder and spending his life in prison. When Jerome Barrett, a serial rapist, was charged with Trimble’s murder in 2008 based on DNA evidence and later convicted, Raybin said, “John and his client were vindicated.”

Womack and Hollins co-authored a book about Womack’s ordeal, The Suspect: A Memoir, released in 2012. “He was absolutely a fierce advocate and just a consummate attorney in the old school style of trying cases,” Raybin said.

Hollins was a prosecutor for the City of Nashville from 1961 to 1963 and as an assistant district attorney for Davidson County from 1963 to 1969. He was awarded both his bachelor’s and law degrees from Vanderbilt in 1957.

He began writing poetry in 2002, according to a bio on his law firm’s website, and had written nearly 200 poems since.

Hollins is survived by his wife of 53 years, Carol Sue Vaught Hollins, three children and four grandchildren.