OBITUARY: Bartlett ‘Bart’ Chesterfield Durham

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Bart durham
Bart durham

Bartlett “Bart” Chesterfield Durham of Nashville, Tennessee, passed away on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at the age of 89. Known to the public as the founder and face of Nashville-based personal injury firm Bart Durham Injury Law, Bart was best known as a beloved husband, father, and grandfather, as well as a caring lawyer and employer. Bart also was a member of Nashville Korean Presbyterian Church along with his wife, Cindy (Sin Young Kang).

Bart was born on March 5, 1935, and raised in Ripley, Tenn., by his parents B.C. and Nelle (Pierson) Durham. He was a small-town boy with humble beginnings who attributed his life’s successes to hard work, others’ investments in him and luck.

Before his career in law began, Bart first served in the U.S. Army for two years and spent time in Germany. He attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville but finished his degree at Southern Law University in Memphis. Bart’s appreciation for his education inspired him to be a life-long learner and, later, to financially support numerous individuals – inside and outside of his family, including team members at his firm – in their pursuits of higher education.

Upon graduation, Bart passed the Tennessee Bar Exam in 1963 and began practicing law in his hometown alongside his father. Soon after, Bart served with the U.S. Department of Justice in Memphis, a career experience Bart called “the opportunity of a lifetime,” where he and his colleagues prosecuted and defended all cases in the 33 counties of West Tennessee.

Bart’s modest self-esteem as “a nobody” and “night law school graduate” – compared to his “smarter, more experienced, and certainly more sophisticated” colleagues – fueled his work ethic to arrive at the office early and leave late. It also instilled a habit he kept throughout his life: to reflect and remember how lucky he was.

Bart moved to Nashville in 1969 for a job as a prosecuting attorney in the State Attorney General’s Office. In charge of federal civil rights cases throughout the state, Bart appeared regularly in every U.S. District Court from Memphis to East Tennessee and argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. Arguing three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court was also among Bart’s proudest accomplishments.

Then, in 1975, with “no clients, just a little bit of money saved, the optimism of youth and high hopes,” Bart went into private practice with his peer, Henry Haile. Before long, Bart was the first lawyer in Tennessee to advertise his services in print, on the radio and TV, and thousands of Tennesseans grew up seeing his face on their home television sets. In his faithful pursuit of justice for victims of personal tragedies, Bart became known as a voice for the underserved.

Bart went on to represent thousands of personal injury cases, and he was named a Senior Counselor by the Tennessee Bar Association. He employed many fine lawyers and team members, including his youngest son, Blair, whom he thoroughly enjoyed working with. Unwilling to retire because of his love for work, and for fear of getting bored, Bart continued assisting with work at his firm until his passing.

Relatives, friends, and acquaintances alike knew Bart to be both a character and a generous man committed to his family, his community and his clients. He not only liked to be in on a good joke, he also was down to earth, easy to talk to and quick to offer compliments.

In his personal life, Bart had a fondness for flair. His hobbies included flying, entering the ring as a wrestling ringside manager alongside Regina Hale and attending Ferrari racing meets. He acquired a few Ferraris of his own, founded the Tennessee Chapter of the Ferrari Club of America in 1997 and served as the Tennessee president and regional director of the Southeast Region.

Bart is survived by his wife, Cindy; his children, Colin and Michele (Falletta) Durham, Blair and Kelley (Bean) Durham; and his grandchildren, Ethan and Adelynn.

Visitation with the Durham family will be on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, from 10AM until 11AM, at Woodmont Christian Church located at 3601 Hillsboro Road. The Celebration of Life will follow at 12PM. A private burial service is planned for the family.

In lieu of flowers, cards, and gifts, Bart and the family have requested donations of time and resources be shared with Heart’n Soul Hospice. (615) 835 3822. (www.heartnsoulhospice.com/get-involved/)

Arrangements in the care of Compassion Funeral & Cremation Services, Nashville, TN. We proudly remain locally owned & operated.

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