Former Nashville Judge Charles Galbreath dies at 88 - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Former Nashville Judge Charles Galbreath dies at 88


Longtime Nashville residents know the name Charles Galbreath, perhaps the most flamboyant Tennessee judge of the past century.

Galbreath, who once wrote a letter to Hustler magazine - praising its publisher Larry Flynt and the First Amendment rights of pornography - was one of a kind.

Galbreath died Tuesday at the age of 88, leaving behind an incredible story of early Nashville.

He was a judge, an actor, a lawmaker, a public defender, a restaurateur and a man whose life was so interesting and legacy so rich it's difficult to summarize in just a few sentences.

Fresh out of the South Pacific and World War II, Galbreath became the youngest practicing lawyer in Nashville. He was the defense attorney in the state's crime of the decade in the 1960s: the murder of the beautiful University of Tennessee coed.

And he was just getting started. Galbreath became a state legislator and wrote a bill to create something called a "public defender."

He became Davidson County's first public defender in 1962, and his operation was so modest he didn't even have an office chair for the first few months.

However, Galbreath was a defender of the small guy, and that's what legendary publisher and free speech advocate John Seignethaler liked about him even though Galbreath once sued The Tennessean with Seignethaler at the helm.

"I speak of him fondly, because a long time has passed since he sued me," Seignethaler said, laughing. "He was hard to dislike."

As a criminal court of appeals judge, Galbreath once wrote Hustler in support of the magazine's mission, and he wrote it on Court of Appeals letterhead.

Galbreath also owned the famous Elliston Place Soda Shop, where employees say he was the kindest and most considerate boss they've ever had.

Actor, politician, judge - Galbreath lead a complex life, says Nashville attorney and businessman John Jay Hooker.

"Bottom line, he was really an advocate. I asked him several times, 'What about being a judge?' He said, 'I like being a judge, but it's awful hard for me not to take sides,'" Hooker said.

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