James H. Cheek, III Memory Landscape

Personal Remembrances

Below are some remembrances from current and former individuals at the firm that had the pleasure to work alongside Jim Cheek:

While I worked on a number of deals and merger litigation-related matters with Jim, I really got to know Jim on the tennis court. He was a terrific tennis player and loved the game. On and off the court, he was tenacious and was probably the most competitive person I have ever known. In his life, Jim won a lot . . . in the boardroom, in deal negotiations and, yes, in tennis. While his contributions to the firm as a whole and to the corporate group are well documented, his efforts were also invaluable to the Litigation Group and, in particular, to the Securities & Shareholder Litigation group. Jim provided us with relationships and opportunities that allowed our group to expand and to work on some of the most high profile securities matters in the country. Jim was brilliant, he was a gentleman, and he will be greatly missed.

Britt Latham
Bass, Berry & Sims

Jim Cheek was an exceptional person. A brilliant lawyer, teacher and mentor, he helped grow and define the firm for 50 years with his relentless energy and enthusiasm. Jim was also a very generous person and, for those of us lucky enough to be around him, a lot of fun. He will be greatly missed.

Allen Overby
Bass, Berry & Sims

I took Jim’s Securities Law seminar as a 3rd year at Vanderbilt Law School. I had known Jim who was two years ahead of me at MBA. He was a member of a spectacular class. He became my colleague and I enjoyed sharing firm leadership with him for many years. Jim developed a national reputation and was able to attract many top shelf clients from all over the country. The dinner at Jim and Sigourney’s home was a highlight of many summers. I was proud to call Jim my partner and more importantly my friend. He will be missed greatly.

Bill Ozier
Retired Member
Bass, Berry & Sims

Jim Cheek is one of the best human beings I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. Both a legendary lawyer and kind human being, he inspired those of us around him to be our best selves. Always quick to encourage and support, he made our community better. He will be forever missed and always remembered.

Samar Ali
Research Professor of Political Science and Law
Vanderbilt Law School

In law school I signed up for the final spot of ten job interviews with the firm. I was petrified when, shortly before my interview was to start, I discovered someone had erased my name and substituted their own. After panicked pleading, Jim and Brad Reed, who were conducting the interviews, agreed to add me as an extra applicant even though it had been a long and exhausting day for them. Jim and Brad were both gracious and engaged during my interview. I was surprised when an offer to join the firm as an associate was extended.

Jim and Brad were even more gracious my first few weeks at the firm. Because I had mixed-up their names (Brad Cheek and Jim Reed), I referred to each incorrectly as we passed multiple times a day in the halls. Neither of them ever embarrassed me by pointing out my mistake. Eventually, another attorney told me of my repeated blunders. Jim was extremely kind in response to my profuse apologies. For 40 years I never saw Jim without thinking about his sympathy for a lowly law school student, and then his empathy for a mortified baby lawyer.

Tony McFarland
Bass, Berry & Sims

Jim supported the firm’s law student recruitment efforts when I led those efforts at the firm from 1985–1995. No matter how busy he was, he took time to mentor students who were interested in corporate and securities law in particular but he always got to know each student the firm was recruiting. He was generous to share his time and his home for events and activities. I was a very young staff member, but Jim treated me with kindness and respect.

Karen Reagan Britton
Vice Dean for Admissions, Career & Professional Development, and Student Affairs
University of South Carolina School of Law

Jim and several of his friends (including James Gooch) endowed the Cheatham scholarship I received at Vanderbilt Law School. Even when I was a mere 1L, Jim was generous with his time and encouragement. He could have spent his time focused on more profitable endeavors, but he knew the value of building up the next generation of lawyers. After I joined the firm, he was quick with an enthusiastic (and often emoji-filled) email whenever news would go out about one of my cases. He was always quick with a smile and an invitation to join him when we would run into each other at Friday Break, and he was always more interested in what was going on with me than talking about himself. Jim was the best of the profession – deeply capable, but also deeply kind. His loss leaves a cavernous hole, but his legacy will live on in those of us who were lucky enough to know him. To me, he will always be a role model and an example worth living up to.

Chris Climo
Bass, Berry & Sims

I feel like the firm has lost its Father. Jim meant so much to so many in the firm. He will be impossible to replace. I, like so many, will be forever in his debt for what he did for my career. We will miss him greatly.

Overton Thompson
Bass, Berry & Sims

I am really sorry to hear this. I had very little interaction with Jim, but, in that little interaction, he was warm, jovial, and caring toward me in a way I have never had occasion to talk about. He was a really good human being. When you live as long as I have, you can tell that. And, of course, he was a giant in his field. This is a huge loss.

Brook Lathram
Retired Member
Bass, Berry & Sims

I’m very sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. He was a remarkable lawyer and revered by his peers (though there weren’t many because he was in a class of his own). I will keep his family in my thoughts.

Scott Shanker
Butler Snow LLP

I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of Jim Cheek and send my heartfelt condolences to his friends and family.

I have worked for many years as an assistant to Bob Mundheim at Shearman & Sterling. I met Jim a few times in person and spoke with him often on the phone. He was always a gentleman, friendly and personable. He always treated me as if I were his friend as well. We called him “Brother Cheek” and it is an apt description because he treated his friends like family and his family like gold. I will miss our friendly banter when he would call to speak with Bob, his caring manner, his intelligence, his wit.

May fond memories and thoughts of more joyful times help his family and friends with this loss.

Rest in peace, Brother Cheek. You will be truly missed.

Lina Stern
Legal Administrative Assistant
Shearman & Sterling LLP

My heartfelt condolences to the Cheek family. Jim and my late husband Herb Wander were great friends and lawyers on the same path. They shared clients and good times together for many years. He was a very special man. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

Karen Wander

When I became a partner more than 40 years ago, I was incredibly proud to call Jim Cheek my partner. Even as an associate, Jim’s magnanimous attitude and egalitarianism made me feel like his partner. Jim’s loyalty to Bass, Berry & Sims was instrumental in making the firm what it is today, putting what was best for the firm above any self-interest. He will be greatly missed, not only by the firm, but by the Nashville legal and business communities. We all owe him a heavy debt of gratitude.

James Berry
Berry & Tudor, P.C.

I am saddened to hear of Jim’s passing. He was an incredibly talented attorney but an even better person! His practical approach to the practice of law was special…you could always rely on his legal advice being spot on but his strategic commentary on problem solving was unique and invaluable.

He was a great role model and mentor for so many Nashvillians…his impact on helping weave the fabric of our great city will be treasured for many years by those of us who had the pleasure of calling Jim friend.

May he rest in peace.

Ken Melkus
Senior Advisor
Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe

I first met Jim when he taught my Securities Regulation class at Vanderbilt Law School. He became a special friend and adviser and was simply the best corporate and securities lawyer with whom I ever worked. He exemplified the best our profession has to offer.

Rest in peace, my friend.

William P. Aiken
Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C

Jim was so helpful to me both personally and professionally during my career at Genesco. He was a good man who contributed so much and I will miss him.

Hal Pennington
Genesco, Inc.

It’s hard to imagine not seeing Jim anymore. I didn’t know him as well as his colleagues at Bass, Berry & Sims, but he made a difference in my life. While we had the Bowne and Donnelley offices in Nashville, he was integral to the success of what we built – both by making expectations clear and, once he thought we had something to offer his clients, making kind introductions and giving great advice. What I remember most about Jim was how very kind and generous he was to me, and I’m glad to have gotten to know him. My condolences to you all at Bass, Berry & Sims and to Jim’s family for the loss of this great, kind man.

John Hyland
Capital Markets & Compliance
Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc.

After teaching me in law school, Jim continued to teach and mentor me for decades at Bass, Berry & Sims. Jim was passionate about many things—his practice, teaching and mentoring, the law firm, his family, basketball, tennis—and his passion was evident in how effective he was at each of those things, as well as many others. He was widely known and respected for his legal acumen and practical insights, and he will be greatly missed, but especially so by those of us who were privileged to call him a partner and a friend.

Jim Tate
Bass, Berry & Sims

What a wonderful man Jim was. In 1988, as a sixth year associate sent down to Nashville by a client that was funding a buyout of one of Jim’s clients, I had spent an entire week in conference rooms at Bass, Berry & Sims. On Friday, I was exhausted and there was no prospect of getting back to my wife and six-month old son over the weekend. Ever the gracious gentleman, Jim invited me out to his house to spend the weekend, took me out to dinner and made me feel totally at home. How many partners would treat a sixth year associate from another firm so generously? That’s just the kind of person he was. I was fortunate to get to know Jim over the years and he was always one of my role models. I feel lucky to have known him. The light of our profession shines a little less brightly without him with us. We will miss you, Jim.

Keith F. Higgins
Retired Partner
Ropes & Gray LLP

It was my privilege to attend committee meetings of board of directors of Genesco for many years and got to witness the respect everyone had for Jim every time he spoke. He seemed to have a deep understanding of business and all of his advice was so practical. Above that he always took the time to speak and made you feel his equal even though you knew you were in the presence of a truly special person. My thoughts and prayers are with the family for their loss.

Paul Williams

Jim was the reason I became a lawyer.  I knew him for almost 50 years, and as a young college graduate trying to decide what to do with my life, he suggested that I consider law school. He set me on the path to joining Bass, Berry & Sims as a corporate and securities lawyer, later encouraging me to focus on healthcare. Jim mentored me throughout all the years he and I practiced together. I learned how to be more than a lawyer to our clients. He was the trusted advisor to so many, and I followed his lead and tried to do the same. It was because of Jim’s advice and encouragement that I became involved with organizations such as the ABA and the American Health Law Association, and that I now serve as President of AHLA. I admired, respected and cared for Jim as though he and I were family. Jim’s passing has left a huge hole in the hearts of all of his family and friends.

Cindy Reisz
Bass, Berry & Sims

In 1986 Jim had recently returned to Nashville from teaching at Cambridge in London. He needed an assistant when he returned to the firm and somehow he chose me to be his assistant and our 34-year journey began. I have so much admiration, respect and gratitude for Jim. He literally changed my life. His generosity, wisdom and accomplishments have impacted so many. But, I also know he was a really “cool” guy; so adventurous, loved to travel and see the world, go to concerts, play tennis…his energy blew me away. He was so thoughtful, always bringing me back a memento from his travels and explaining in detail how and where it was made and the history behind it. I cherish all of them. My deepest condolences to Jim’s wonderful family. You are in my thoughts.

I miss you, Boss.  Rest in peace.

Nina French
Former Legal Assistant
Bass, Berry & Sims

Jim was a brilliant lawyer, leader in the profession and wonderful teacher. I admired him greatly. His work and manner of conducting his practice set the standard for our profession. I send my condolences to his family and law firm.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle
20th Judicial District – Chancery Court (Davidson County, Tennessee)

It is with great sadness that I learn of the passing of Jim Cheek. When I first became involved with the Business Law Section (by another name then) Jim became my mentor and involved me in many panels and committees. And he was always there to discuss important aspects of securities law, even when I was at the SEC. You will be missed, Jim.

Mike Halloran
Halloran Farkas + Kittila LLP

Jim’s leadership and innovation created a lasting legacy at the Legal Aid Society. When he led the annual fundraising campaign for Legal Aid in 1995, Jim brought two innovations that changed both the campaign and the organization.

He instituted a campaign category called the Leadership Cabinet for law firms that donated a firm gift calculated on the number of lawyers in the firm. Jim predicted that when we said we would publish the names of the firms that participated, all the leading firms would want to be included, and he was right. That category has increased Legal Aid funding by many millions of dollars over the years since.

In the same year, Jim proposed that Legal Aid establish a community advisory council in order to extend the involvement of community leaders in the organization and bring increased support. We did, with great benefit.

We are grateful for Jim’s significant role in strengthening legal assistance to the poor in Middle Tennessee.

Ashley Wiltshire
Former Executive Director
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands

Media Coverage

Below are some of the local articles recognizing Jim Cheek’s impact in the Nashville community: