John Y. Powers, a former federal magistrate judge who retired from the bench in 2004, died March 29. Powers lived in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, with his wife, Bobbie Powers, who survives him.
His many friends and colleagues recalled him as a dedicated jurist who showed compassion to all who entered his courtroom, according to an obituary by Todd South published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Carter, Class of 1968, replaced Powers when he was appointed to the bench in 1999. Powers had completed two eight-year terms but then was recalled to part-time status until his full retirement. “He really helped me learn my way as a judge,” Carter told South. “He was a great colleague, friend and mentor.”
Powers was appointed to the bench by U.S. District Judge H. Ted Milburn in 1984. Originally from Jackson, Tennessee, he moved to Chattanooga in 1959 and practiced law there until his appointment to the federal bench. After law school, he served in the U.S. Army in counter-intelligence and the JAG Corps, retiring with the rank of colonel. He met his wife, Bobbie, while stationed at Fort Holabird in Baltimore, Maryland, where the Army Intelligence School and the Counter Intelligence Records Facility were located.
Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier, appointed in 1995, related a story of one of Power’s many empathetic actions while serving as a magistrate judge. A woman who had won a civil lawsuit as a plaintiff lived in a remote county in the region. Before she could receive the settlement she was awarded, the woman was required to come to court so that Powers could explain the results of the case to her and sign the paperwork. But the woman, who disliked cities and courtrooms, refused to return to Chattanooga. Powers drove to her remote county, where he had arranged to meet her on the side of a country road near her home at 8 p.m. one evening to explain the judgment and sign the paperwork.
In addition to his wife, Judge Powers is survived by four sons and daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at noon on Monday, April 9, 2012, at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Signal Mountain, with visitation at the church beginning at 10:30 a.m. before the service.
This story includes reporting by Todd South of the Chattanooga Free Press from April 2, 2012.