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Community mourns death of local attorney Ashley

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ray Ashley (right) poses in an undated photo with then-Gov. Ned McWherter. Ashley was avidly interested in politics although he never considered running for office himself.
Ray Ashley, the first West Tennessee attorney appointed outside of Memphis to be Tennessee attorney general, passed away on Monday, July 2 at the age of 84. Ashley, born Randolph Alexander Ashley Jr. on Nov. 18, 1927 followed in his father's footsteps and began practicing law in the family firm with his father, Randolph A. Ashley Sr., and brother, Barret Ashley. Today the law firm is known as Ashley, Ashley and Arnold and has been a staple in our community since 1903.

Ashley will be remembered as a diverse individual with a long list of hobbies including: cooking, swimming, reading, football and politics.

"He was such an interesting person," said Molly Williams, an attorney for Ashley, Ashley and Arnold, who has known Ashley since joining the law firm in 1990. "He had so many interests outside the law."

Williams says that she will remember Ashley for his stories and his support over many years. According to Williams, it was Ashley who encouraged her to run for Dyer County commissioner in 1990, a seat she had to give up only because her family relocated outside her district. She says that he thought it was important for women to participate in politics.

"Ray was interested in politics but never wanted to run himself," said Williams. "He encouraged me to run for office because he said that women served in office better than men because they were more detailed oriented."

Williams says that she and Ashley shared a passion for politics and although both acknowledged it would be too tough to run for president of the United States, they enjoyed sharing their ideas for taking over the president's cabinet. Williams recollected with a laugh how they planned to fill the president's cabinet with local Dyersburg residents such as Lewis Norman.

Ray Ashley is sworn in as Tennessee attorney general in 1974.
"We had hours of fun doing that," said Williams. "He had such a passion for politics."

Williams says she will remember Ashley as a gracious individual, recollecting how attentive he was at both of her daughters' weddings. With Williams' parents deceased, Ashley made his way from table to table acting as host. Williams says she was touched at how he introduced himself to everyone and was particularly attentive to Rhodes College alumni, his alma mater, (although it was Southwestern College when he attended) as well as the alma mater of Williams' daughters.

"It meant the world to us," said Williams. "And we will never forget it."

Williams says that Ashley made a big impact as state attorney general from 1974-1976, not just for the cases he tried and the opinions he drafted, but because he mentored so many bright, young attorneys that went on to have very successful legal careers. Some of those individuals include Federal Judge Joe Haines, Associate Justice William Koch, who is currently serving on the Tennessee Supreme Court and well-known attorney Richard Lodge.

During his tenure as state attorney general, Ashley is most remembered for stopping the Tennessee Valley Authority from building the Hartsville nuclear steam plant just upriver from Nashville as well as addressing consumer issues in the state.

However, Ashley is most remembered among his friends for his love of Dyersburg and his family. In the 1940s he was given an opportunity to play football at the University of Wyoming but told Williams he hitchhiked back to Dyersburg because he was so homesick. He also stepped aside as state attorney general in 1976 to be able to return home and be with his family.

"He just loved this community," said Williams. "He was a great man."

Ashley passed away at his residence in Memphis and is survived by his wife of 58 years, Betty, his two daughters Jane Hill and Anne Craig Bobo, and five grandsons.

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alma mater. alma mater.

-- Posted by DCresident on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 8:41 AM

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