Pamela L. Reeves
1954 - 2020
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Pamela L. Reeves

Pamela L. Reeves, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, passed away on September 10, 2020. Even though her 66 years were not nearly long enough, there is comfort in knowing that she didn't waste a minute.

Pam was born in Marion, Virginia, in 1954, to Fred (an avid fisherman) and Betty (an ace quilter and biscuit-maker). She was the oldest of five sisters, each of whom she adored, challenged, occasionally terrorized, and inspired tremendously. Their family lived in a four-room house without running water; Pam had to haul water in from the creek in a bucket. These early hardships didn't put a dent in her love for the mountains where she was born—Grayson County, Virginia, remained her sanctuary for her entire life.

Even so, Pam left the mountains for the University of Tennessee. She was the first member of her family to go to college, although thanks to her influence, encouragement, and cajoling, all of her younger sisters also earned degrees. Pam graduated as a Torchbearer and member of Phi Beta Kappa, and cemented lifelong friendships by riding up and down Cumberland Avenue in a laundry cart.

Pam loved UT so much that she stayed for law school. It was a good thing, too, because that's where she met Charles Swanson. He first saw her while she was circulating a petition to save the snail darter (an endangered fish that she later helped her professor defend in the Supreme Court). Pam and Charles remained close friends and dedicated school party planners for the next 12 years. In 1988, Pam invited Charles to join her on a fateful business trip to New York, where their long smoldering spark burst into flame. Their families are eternally grateful to the Yankees for playing at home that weekend, enticing Charles to join Pam on the trip. Six months later, they were engaged; two weeks later, they were married. In 1990, they had their son Reedy, and in 1992 their daughter Amanda followed. Always a believer that working mothers deserve good child care, Pam immediately recruited family friend Judy Cooper to help manage her (often unmanageable) children.

In her career, Pam was a pioneer at every turn. She blazed a trail as one of the first attorneys in Tennessee to specialize in sexual harassment law. Her work took her all over the state with such frequency that as a child, Amanda named her stuffed lamb "TrialAgain," after the reason Pam so often had to travel. Her peers quickly recognized her leadership, culminating in her selection as the first female president of the Tennessee Bar Association. Following years of successful practice as an advocate, Pam co-founded a full-time mediation firm—one of the first of its kind in the state.

Her accomplishments attracted national attention: In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Pam to be the first female federal judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee. She was confirmed unanimously by the Senate the following spring. At her investiture, she pledged that she would "work hard each and every day to do what she genuinely believed was the right thing." Not even cancer stopped her from making good on that promise—three months after she was diagnosed, she became the first woman to serve as Chief Judge.

All of Pam's professional accolades won't fit in this space, and can be found elsewhere. Just as important to those who love her are her other accomplishments. She made perfect sausage gravy and the best deviled eggs. She had an unparalleled mastery of the conspiratorial wink and the wry smile. She traveled the world without ever losing her sense of wonder for her own backyard. She believed in people so fiercely that it could knock them down, but she was always the first to pick them back up. She loved as much as she was loved, which was probably her most incredible accomplishment of all.

She is survived by her husband Charles; her son Reedy (Jeremy); her daughter Amanda; her sisters Loretta (Bob), Angela (Jim), Rhonda (Philip), and Sandra Dee (Martin); her cousin Freda; her sister-in-law Sandra; her nieces Sara, Olivia, and Julie (Laura); her nephew Michael (Jessica); an enormous chosen family; and an astonishing array of houseplants.

A celebration of her life will be held when it is safe to hug as much as Pam would have wanted. In the meantime, in lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the University of Tennessee College of Law and the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.




To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Knoxville News Sentinel from Sep. 11 to Sep. 13, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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31 entries
September 23, 2020
It was my great honor to have known Pam for decades. I was so sorry to hear of her passing. May her memory be a blessing.
Mark Siegel
September 15, 2020
She was a great, great lady - loved and admired by many as she deserved to be - left this world way too soon - Rest In Peace Judge Pam !!!
Bob Rosenbaum
Friend
September 15, 2020
I was fortunate to work with Judge Reeves as a court reporter. She was one of the kindest judges that I've had the honor of working for. She was authentic and a beautiful and intelligent lady. Prayers to the family during this difficult time. I am so sorry for your loss. May you rest in peace and dance among the angels, Judge Reeves.
Traci Walker
Coworker
September 14, 2020
I only knew Pam through three of her sisters, Rhonda, Sandra, and mostly Angela. She was such an outstanding person, but that is what I would expect of a sister to those three--and to Amanda whom I know only through Facebook. Please accept my sincere condolences for your great loss. I will be in touch.
Barbara Niemczak
Friend
September 14, 2020
Pam was a wonderful person and a great friend...and a hell of a soccer teammate. And with a smile I could never forget. Happy trails, my dear friend
Dave Gibson
Friend
September 14, 2020
Pam was a woman among women. Your life was a blessing to all. Rest In Peace my friend.
Valerie Johnson
Friend
September 13, 2020
pam was an excellent neighbor. She always made us feel welcome whether she was hosting a party or we were dropping by to borrow (steal) a food ingredient needed for dinner. Many of our conversations happened while weeding her flowers between our 2 properties. Even though I knew of many of her awards and appointments, I never heard about them from her. She never felt like being a female held her back. She met and conquered challenges as they came her way. To us, she wasn't the first female federal judge of East Tn., she was Pam, our neighbor and friend. Her energy, wit, intelligence and quick laughter will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies to her family.
Libby Ramussen
Neighbor
September 13, 2020
So sorry for your loss....my prayers are with all of you. I enjoyed her visits to Grayson County back in the day...she was such fun.
April Mitchell
Family
September 13, 2020
Dear Charles, Reedy and Amanda. My heart is filled with grief over Pamela's death and goes out to you in love. May your family and friends surround you with support, care and love in this time of sadness. She is gone too soon, but will never be forgotten as she touched so many lives.
Gretchen (Beal) McKee


















Gretchen (Beal) McKee
Friend
September 13, 2020
Chief Justice Pamela Reeves is a loss to this world on every level. We were in UT law school together, and have not had occasion to see one another regularly since. Upon seeing the headline of her death, my heart was pierced because Pam passing through any life left an impact. I offer my deepest condolences to her family and friends. What a legacy she left! Even more, what positive memories!
Cynthia M. (Cindy) Odle
Classmate
September 13, 2020
A life well lived. So lucky you have been on the receiving end of the wry smile and comforting hug and blessed to have her in formative years.
Carrie Niceley
Student
September 13, 2020
Pam was successful in anything that she attempted to do. I have many good memories of Pam--serving as the state Beta Club President, and being Pam's guest with June Dugger to attend one of her court's trials. We were treated with "royalty"' She was a prime example of being able to succeed in whatever she desired to do. My sympathy to all of the family. You have many good memories.
Charlotte Harkleroad
Teacher
September 12, 2020
To The Family

Pam and I met some years ago when I was a juvenile probation officer and she was a compassionate attorney. We had some challenges with cases but always worked together for the best interest of that youth standing before the court.
I eventually moved to another agency and we lost touch for a few years. However, our paths crossed again several years before she was appointed U.S. District Court Judge. We eventually worked together again, she as the Judge and me as a Federal Probation Officer prior to my retirement. There is no doubt, Judge Reeves will be missed and has left a legacy that her family and all who knew her can be proud of. My prayers go out to the family. May God continue to keep his loving arms around the family during and beyond this difficult time.

Elaine Johnson and Family
Coworker
September 12, 2020
It was an honor having Pam and her sisters in my classes . Truly one of our very best at Sullivan East High School .
William Sprinkle
Teacher
September 12, 2020
I had the pleasure of working with Chief Judge Reeves. She was always approachable and friendly. She truly cared about those who came before her bench and tried her best to assist them in bettering their life. She was committed to justice, tempered with mercy. It’s my pleasure to work with her in federal court. I’m so sorry for the family’s loss, but it is heaven’s gain! May God give you comfort and peace as you travel the grief road.
Trine Robinette
Coworker
September 12, 2020
Angie I’m so sorry to hear this news. Prayers for peace and comfort for you and your family.
Cathy Forester
September 12, 2020
She presided over my U.S. citizenship ceremony a couple years ago. It was her words, sincerity and excitement that made it all so memorable. She was absolutely amazing; and my thoughts and sympathy go out to the family members of such an outstanding woman.

I am so sorry to hear this news.
Don Bateman
Acquaintance
September 12, 2020
The obituary says it all - a diamond in our midst whose shine will be missed by so many! Condolences to the family and all who loved her.
Frankie Wade
Friend
September 12, 2020
She was the perfect example of the federal judges this country needs.
A perfect person with a wonderful personality. May her memory be eternal.
Harry Moskos
Acquaintance
September 12, 2020
Pam was such a special lady in so many ways. I will always cherish seeing her at the Reeves family home for her birthday. Her grace and that sweet smile lit up the house. The Sissies were so blessed to have such a strong bond and you have my deepest sympathy. Charles expressed so much love in the way he spoke of her that day. My deepest condolences to him and their children. May her precious memory help heal your hearts as I know she will always be with each of you . Prayers, love and hugs to each of you.
Linda Miller
Family
September 12, 2020
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Luann Toney
Acquaintance
September 12, 2020
Thinking of the family at this time.
Pam Kirthlink
September 12, 2020
Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. Remembering you and your loved one today and always.
Deborah Hulsey
Friend
September 12, 2020
I will surely miss Pam's sweet smile and personality. She was an inspiration to all who knew her and the best cousin anyone could have.
Nina Weaver
Family
September 12, 2020
Chief Judge Pam Reeves was a very special person. She was a mentor and champion for so many people, especially women. She will be terribly missed.
Amanda Busby
Friend
September 12, 2020
Prayers for all who loved her.
Stephanie Jordan
September 12, 2020
I never met her but learned so much about her from her sister Loretta who loved her so very much and was tremendously proud of her. She will be missed by so many. :-(
Jeanne LaFrantz
Acquaintance
September 11, 2020
Pam was a extremely kind person and was so good to us younger cousins and showed us the courage to follow our dreams too! She will be missed by all who knew her!
Darrell Campbell
Family
September 11, 2020
As long as I can remember, the Reeves girls have been a blessing to my family. Pamela is gone too soon from this earth but will not be forgotten. Hugs to all who loved her.
Penny Parker
Friend
September 11, 2020
The first female lawyer I ever met, my first mentor and an amazing friend! The world is a sadder place without her. Much love to all her friends and family.
Susan Fuller
Friend
September 11, 2020
I have known Judge Reeves since we were in student government at UT. To make a long story short, she was a wonderful woman. We were at opposite ends of the poltiical spectrum, but that only made our friendship more interesting. Lawyers and judges are not really supposed to be friends, but every time I ran into her at the grocery, she was always full of smiles and as relaxed as if we had been law partners. My sincere condolences to her family, who have lost a truly great lady.
John Neal
Friend
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