by Carlissa Shaw, Esq. —
President Biden nominated a Memphis native, lawyer Andre B. Mathis, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to replace Judge Bernice Donald, who took senior status last year.
Judge Donald, when appointed in 2011, became the first African-American female to serve on the Sixth Circuit Court
Mathis’ nomination gained national attention January 12th as thousands on social media scrutinized United States Senator Marsha Blackburn’s (R-Tennessee) treatment of him during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. The former NAACP President Cornell William Brooks said it was “extraordinarily painful to watch.”
Blackburn referred to Mathis’ “rap sheet,” regarding three speeding tickets more than 10 years old. One of the tickets was for going five miles over the speed limit.
Mathis remained stoic, poised and calm while representing himself, his family and Memphis.
He told senators that “Growing up in South Memphis, I never thought that I would be nominated for this position.”
If confirmed, Mathis will be only the third African-American male to serve on the body, and the second African-American male from Tennessee to serve.
In 2022, we still are celebrating “firsts”. Mathis would be the first Black man from Memphis to serve on the appeal court.
We need to see more Mathises in our community to inspire our youth to believe in things that seem impossible.
Mathis has a life story that prepared him for this moment. He grew up in the heart of South Memphis on Trigg Avenue and attended neighborhood legacy Memphis City Schools. He knows firsthand the obstacles and beauty of being a kid from the “hood.”
Mathis attended both Southside and Central high schools, later obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree and a law degree from the University of Memphis.
For many children growing up in the urban core of Memphis, attending college and law school often are dreams deferred, not because of lack of talent but because of a lack of access and resources.
Although Mathis faced the challenges of many minority students, including finances and support while pursuing higher education, he did not let that deter him.
In law school, he finished in the top 10 percent of his class, was an editor of the law review, served on the moot court board and passed the bar exam on his first attempt.
By age 37, Mathis had been named a partner at two of Memphis’ top law firms: Glankler Brown, where he started practicing after graduating from law school in 2007, and Butler Snow, which he joined as a partner in 2020.
During his 14 years of practice, Mathis has handled nearly 200 criminal cases, more than 70 as a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel for the Western District of Tennessee, the federal judicial district encompassing Memphis.
He also is a former member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Gun Violence, a position to which ABA President William C. Hubbard appointed him in 2014.
However, what truly makes Mathis a hometown hero is his heart for service.
For the past 14 years, Mathis has coached student moot court teams at his alma mater. Alumni of his training include Will Terrell, a corporate lawyer for Amazon; Jerrick Murrell, an associate with Baker Donelson and me, Carlissa Shaw, chief policy advisor for the Shelby County Environmental Court.
Terrell shared these sentiments on Facebook following the White House release of Mathis’ nomination:
“During the first week of my first semester of law school, I met Andre Mathis. I asked him what I needed to do to be successful in law school, and he told me. In a theme that would repeat Itself over the years, I listened to his advice halfway. When I wanted to try out for Law Review, Andre was my first call. When I wanted to join the Moot Court team, Andre was the coach. When I graduated from law school and decided I didn’t like Civil Litigation, I talked to Andre about my next moves. When I joined FedEx, I talked to Andre about it, and when I had another opportunity, the same story.
“My story is not unique. He’s done this for countless young lawyers that matriculate through the University of Memphis Law School. For the last 10+ years, Andre has given his time, money, and energy to advance the cause of helping young lawyers achieve their dreams. He’s a true friend, a great lawyer, and he will be an outstanding judge.
“On a day when South Memphis lost one of its sons, another son of South Memphis is blazing a path that gives hope to that community and the rest of Memphis.
“Proud to call you a friend Mr. Mathis! Congratulations.”
Mathis is the former chair of the Downtown Porter Boys & Girls Club, where he benefited from the programming in the very same space as a child. In 2011, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis named him its Alumnus of the Year.
In addition, Mathis works as a pro bono lawyer, volunteers at expungement clinics and donates his time and resources to causes supporting the Memphis community.
In 2018, the Memphis Bar Association awarded Mathis the Sam A. Myar Jr. Memorial Award, the MBA’s highest honor for public service.
Mathis also is a former president of the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association.
A husband, father, lawyer, mentor and community leader, Mathis ultimately is just a kid from South Memphis that used every resource at his disposal to become a neighborhood hero.
Mathis’ confirmation is pending. If you are interested in helping, please contact Blackburn at 901-527-9199 or 202-224-3344. Or, go to https://www.blackburn.senate.gov/email-me to send her an email.
Contact U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee) at 901-544-4224 or 202-224-4944; email: https://www.hagerty.senate.gov/email-me.
Urge them to vote “Yes” to the confirmation of Andre B. Mathis.