Push underway to move grave of Tennessee legal pioneer John Haywood

Walter F. Roche Jr.

For years, the family grave of the man considered by many to be the father of Tennessee law and history has remained behind an auto repair shop along a commercial street in Nashville.

Now, a petition filed in Davidson Chancellery Court seeks to exhume the body of John Haywood, his wife and possibly other family members from the site along Nolensville Pike and move it to the Nashville Historic Cemetery.

Hal Hardin, a Nashville lawyer who filed the petition, said the city’s cemetery would be a better fit for the self-taught former Supreme Court judge who died in 1826 while still sitting on the bench.

Born in North Carolina in 1753, Haywood was called to the North Carolina Bar in 1786 and subsequently served as attorney general and later still as a judge of the superior court.

He then turned to private practice and was the author of legal books on the laws of Tennessee and North Carolina.

He then moved to Tennessee where he already owned land in Tusculum. After building a house and two log cabins, he began teaching law to budding students, creating what was believed to be one of the area’s first law schools.

He was appointed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee in 1816.

Citing recent trends in historic cemeteries, Hardin said the petition was motivated by concerns that the cemetery could be permanently locked in its current location.

Calling Haywood a “pioneer of the law,” Hardin said so far he has only been able to identify two of the ancestors of the Haywood family.

Annabeth Hayes, one of those two, said she supported the petition.

“Yes, as a distant descendant of Judge John Haywood, I support the re-burial of John Haywood, his wife Martha Haywood, their family members and all those enslaved to their current site located in a near commercial development. from Nolensville Road to Nashville City Cemetery, “she wrote in an email response to questions.

Hardin said Haywood’s wife Martha was known to be buried at the current site along with other family members.

He said Middle Tennessee State University had agreed to analyze the remains recovered from the Nolensville Road site. He said the town cemetery had agreed to provide the site for re-internment.

“We are trying to raise money to cover the remaining costs,” Hardin concluded. He noted that any further development at the current site is prohibited while the bodies are buried there.

The land is owned by Texas-based Polly Properties. The company’s attorney in Tennessee did not respond to requests for comment.

According to court documents, legal opinions regarding the proposed exhumation are pending and so far no opposition has emerged.

Contact reporter Walter F. Roche Jr. at [email protected]

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