Jerry H. Summers (’66)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

Since graduating from the College of Law in 1966, Jerry Summers has made a substantial impact on his colleagues, his community, the legal profession, and the College of Law. After working as a prosecutor in the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office, he entered private practice in 1969. He became the founding member of what is now Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers, where he is the supervising member, working closely with each of the other attorneys.

An experienced trial lawyer, Summers has been included in every yearly volume of Best Lawyers in America in both personal injury and criminal law. He has served as president of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association and the Tennessee Criminal Defense Lawyers and as a member of the national boards of the American Association for Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is one of just three attorneys in Tennessee invited to join the American Board of Criminal Lawyers and has been inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates, the International Society of Barristers, the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. Twice, he has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. His book, The Turtle and the Lawyer, details the ways that many people have helped him along his journey. It reminds readers that if you see a turtle on the top of a fence post, you know it didn’t get there on its own.

Named philanthropist of the year by the Chattanooga Bar Association, Summers is active in many organizations, serving on the boards of the Area IV Special Olympics and the Orange Grove Center for the mentally and physically impaired. Previously, he served as a member of the Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services.

One of the leading donors in the history of the College of Law, he was one of the founders of the college’s Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution and established a scholarship in the name of his firm. He has served on the UT Development Council and the College of Law Dean’s Circle. He also co-chaired the College of Law’s last campaign and is the honorary chair of the current one.