NSL Mourns Loss of Sen. Joe Haynes

Sen. Joe Haynes, a 1965 graduate of NSL, died Friday, January 26, 2018 at the age of 81. His wife, retired Judge Barbara Haynes, is a 1976 alumna of the School. The NSL community offers condolences to the Haynes family, friends and colleagues.

Information about services can be found here.

Senator Joe Haynes, Hon. Barbara Haynes, Gregg S. Treadway, Kimberley Reed-Bracey, Russell E. Freeman, and Kirk Clements.


In 2016, The Torch published this article detailing the years of service to law and the community by the Hayneses.


Senator Joe Haynes and Judge Barbara Haynes distinguished themselves as devoted public servants in state and Nashville-area government over several decades. The couple also both graduated from the Nashville School of Law before entering public service.

Joe Haynes grew up in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, where he attended a three-room school for five years before moving to Gallatin. After graduating from Gallatin High School, he attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where he met his future wife.

Born in Nashville, Barbara Haynes attended Isaac Litton High School before matriculating at the University of Tennessee. She said her father instilled in her the necessity of helping others, particularly those who couldn’t help themselves.

“We were raised to work hard and to help others,” she recalls. “My father would have us take our Easter baskets and give them to children who were less fortunate. That spirit of generosity and giving stayed with me.”


Senator Haynes didn’t seriously consider law as his future vocation until his father’s lawyer, Richard Harsh, sat him down and told him that he “ought to be a lawyer.” After graduation, he went to work at DuPont in Old Hickory.

He followed Harsh’s advice and attended Nashville School of Law, graduating in 1965. He enjoyed his classes, particularly those taught by Ervin Entrekin, Leroy Ellis, and Judge Henry Todd. “The Nashville School of Law prepared me very well for the practice of law,” he recalls.

Barbara Haynes didn’t enroll in law school until later. She worked as a teacher and then as legal secretary at the office of Senator Haynes, who had since become her husband. At Joe’s urging, Barbara took a domestic relations class at the Nashville School of Law. She loved it and decided to enroll full-time.

“I loved my classes at the Nashville School of Law from start to finish,” she says, though she particularly enjoyed Leroy Ellis in Conflicts and Clay Bailey in Constitutional Law. She excelled in school and graduated in 1976.

After graduating, Joe opened up his practice in North Nashville but then moved his office to Goodlettsville. “I’ve always liked the small community atmosphere,” he says, reflecting upon his decision to practice in Goodlettsville.

One of his favorite memories practicing law occurred in a personal injury case before Judge Joe Loser, who later became dean of the Nashville School of Law in 1986. “When I walked into the courtroom, the attorney on the other side said they would offer $45,000. I told my client – ‘They are offering $45,000, what do you want to do?’ My client said no, that she wanted a trial. We tried the case and the jury awarded us $150,000.”

“I walked back to my client and said: ‘Aren’t you glad you didn’t take the $45,000?’ She replied: ‘What $45,000? I don’t remember you telling me that.’”

Joe Haynes began serving on the city commission in Goodlettsville in the mid-1970s. He enjoyed his law practice but found that he loved politics. In 1984, he earned a seat in the State Senate where he became known as “the Rock of the Senate.” Haynes loves politics. “It is the give-and-take, the debate, the issues, trying to outsmart your opponent,” he says. “I dearly loved it.”

During his long tenure, he chaired the Government operations committee and the Ethics Committee, headed the Democratic Caucus, and advocated for open government.

“From my time as a Public Service Commissioner and Director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority for 19 years, I worked with Joe Haynes and always found him in support of the consumer and the working man and woman in Tennessee,” says current State Senator Sara Kyle (1987). “I have a new profound appreciation for all Joe Haynes did to make Tennessee a better place to live and work.”

“Politics was his calling,” says Judge Haynes. “I watch him fight some hard battles for the Constitution. He was more than a politician, he was a statesman.”
He also helped see through a bill in 1989 that rewrote the state’s criminal code. The 1989 commission that rewrote the criminal code was chaired by none other than Judge Barbara Haynes, who was asked to do so by Governor Lamar Alexander.

She made an impact throughout her career in the judiciary, first serving as a General Sessions Judge in 1982 and then as a circuit court judge beginning in 1990. She served as a circuit court judge for the Third Circuit in Davidson County until her retirement in late 2011. “It was my opportunity to create what I thought was justice under the Constitution,” she recalls. “I thought people’s rights were being abused. I enjoyed serving as judge for the people in Davidson County.”

She was one of the first women to serve on the bench in Davidson County. “I don’t regard myself as a trailblazer,” she says. “I was one of a group of women that wanted to make  a difference.”

Female attorneys in Nashville attest to Judge Haynes’ path-breaking career and positive impact on the profession. “When I was licensed in 1980, there were no female judges,” says Helen Sfikas Rogers (1980). “She certainly is a wonderful person and a great mentor to women attorneys. She also was a great settler of cases.”

These two local legends in the law draw inspiration from their family, including their seven grandchildren. They enjoy speaking more about their grandkids’ accomplishments and adventures than their own.

They also both speak about a love of learning. “You never quit learning regardless of what you are doing,” says Senator Haynes. “I’m happy I’ve had the opportunity in both politics and law to be able to help people.”

To current students at the Nashville School of Law, Barbara offers the following sage advice: “Always believe in yourself and somewhere you will find a niche where you can make a difference.”

Barbara and Joe Haynes certainly found their niches and made a difference.