Legal 04

James Wendell McKenzie

July 24, 1944 ~ January 2, 2021 (age 76)


James Wendell McKenzie passed away Saturday, Jan. 2, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. He was 76.

Jimmy was born on July 24, 1944, in Dayton, Tenn., son of the late Oliver Wendell McKenzie and Lavada Phillips McKenzie, grandson of Benjamin Gordon McKenzie and nephew of James Gordon McKenzie.

McKenzie graduated from Dayton City School then continued on and graduated from Tennessee Military Institute in Sweetwater, Tenn., on June 3, 1962. He graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on May 5, 1968, with a Bachelor of Science degree. McKenzie then graduated from Cumberland School of Law at Sanford University on Aug. 21, 1971, with a Doctor of Jurisprudence and was licensed to practice law on March 25, 1972.

McKenzie practiced law with Oliver Wendell McKenzie in Dayton from March 25, 1972, and continued private practice until Aug. 25, 1998, when he was elected as the first Rhea County Family Court Judge with jurisdiction being that of domestic relations, juvenile court, general session and civil and criminal cases.

He was a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, a former member of the National Association of Juvenile Court Judges and Tennessee General Sessions Judges. McKenzie was also a member of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers of America and the board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of the State of Tennessee.

He was a member of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and an active member and trustee at First Baptist Church Dayton.

McKenzie comes from a long line of lawyers. His paternal grandfather, Ben G. McKenzie, was the first Attorney General in the newly created 18th Judicial District and was prominent in the prosecution of John T. Scopes in the historic and landmark 1925 Scopes Trial in Dayton. McKenzie’s uncle, the late Gordon McKenzie, a Rhea County judge for years, was a special attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. The McKenzie law firm is the oldest in existence in Rhea County, having been established in 1888 by Ben G. McKenzie.

In the past, McKenzie was cast in the role of his grandfather, Ben G. McKenzie, in the annual reenactment of the 1925 Scopes Trial, which is held annually at the Rhea County Courthouse during the Scopes Trial and Rhea Heritage Festival.

McKenzie was active in civic affairs in Dayton and Rhea County and has served in many capacities. He was the former attorney for both Dayton and Rhea County and previously served as the city judge for both City of Graysville and the Town of Spring City. At the time of his passing, he served as the city judge for the City of Dayton. He was a past member of the Rhea County Election Commission and a former member of the Board of Directors for “We Care” Community Center.

Jimmy leaves behind many lasting friendships he made from his time spent growing up on Third Avenue in Dayton to now.   He enjoyed playing golf, and walking his dog Jax.  Jimmy loved working with wood and created some amazing pieces.  He loved traveling with Bobbie whenever they were able to get away.

McKenzie was preceded in death by his parents and step-sister, Bennie McKenzie Fleming.

McKenzie is survived by his wife, Bobbie Williams McKenzie; daughter, Dana (Chris) Grissom and their children, Charles “Clint” and Brooke of McMinnville, Tenn.; daughter, Brittany (Barry) West and their daughter Ally West of Dayton; and daughter, Wendy (Dr. Stephen) Deloach and their children Haley, Taylor and Keely of Dickson, Tenn.

Funeral Service will be Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 1:00pm (EST) at First Baptist Church of Dayton, TN.  Interment to follow at Buttram Cemetery. 

Family will receive friends Monday, January 4, 2021 from 4:00pm to 8:00pm (EST) at Coulter Garrison Funeral Home in Dayton, TN.

In lieu of flowers, donations or contributions can be sent to First Baptist Church Benevolent Fund or Rhea County Sheriff’s Christmas Toy Drive.

For the safety and respect of all, masks are required and no food is allowed to be served at this time.




To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James Wendell McKenzie, please visit our floral store.


January 4, 2021

4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Coulter-Garrison Funeral Home Inc
1670 Market Street
Dayton, TN 37321

Funeral Service
January 5, 2021

1:00 PM
First Baptist Church of Dayton (Forest Hills Cemetery)

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