It was called a gathering of “friends, family and colleagues” when everyone who wanted to honor the memory of a local judge gathered at the Bradley County Courthouse Thursday.
It was a standing-room only service as the room was filled.
Cleveland Municipal Judge Bill Moss, 76, died Monday. He had served as judge for 38 years for the Municipal Court.
He shared an office at the firm of Logan and Thompson P.C.
Attorney Jim Logan opened the memorial by reading several letters from those who knew Moss through his work. Logan explained that Moss had been battling his failing health, but “he knew the balance of life.”
Although the death investigation is ongoing, Moss was believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Logan introduced Moss’ immediate family members who also provided “expressions” about the judge’s life.
Jami Moss Wise said her family had been “overwhelmed” with the outpouring of condolences, kindness and respect.
“The family has tried over the last few days to take over some of the regular rounds in Cleveland. My sister and I had a great time parking in front of the courthouse Tuesday because we knew for the first time in 38 years there was a chance [if] we got a ticket, we could get it fixed,” Wise explained.
Those gathered broke into laughter, knowing the judge’s demeanor regarding law, but remembering his respectfulness and kindness toward those who had appeared before him with issues in Municipal Court.
He lifted people’s spirits, according to Wise.
“Our family knows how much he loved us,” Wise said.
“We know he talked to you about us, but he talked to us about the folks of Cleveland and Bradley County,” she added.
He was a storyteller who repeated many of his stories to others in the community.
“When he shared stories, he showed he understood human frailty,” Wise said.
“I’m sure we wish [that if] we all knew how frail he was at the end, we would have done anything to help him. But Dad was also fiercely, fiercely independent. He always wanted to do things on his own terms. And he left on his own terms,” she explained.
“Let’s just try to understand him and understand him in his last fragile moment. Try to tell some jokes, and love him just like he did us,” Wise said.
Mayor Tom Rowland said Moss didn’t care about weather conditions when or where he would begin telling his stories.
“It didn’t matter whether it was cold, or the sun was beaming down on a street corner,” Rowland said.
The mayor pointed out if Moss could return and make a final statement, of what he would say.
“I think he would say two things. First ‘I’m sorry if I caused any of my friends pain; and second, it was my intent not to become a burden on my family and friends due to my failing health issues,” Rowland said.
“I truly think Bill was thinking of others Monday. We can’t judge what went on in Bill Moss’ heart and mind Monday,” he added.
Rowland said Moss was known as a kind and caring person.
“He handled cases with dignity and respect to those in his court,” Rowland said.
He said Moss and several other attorneys worked in Conrad Finnell’s law office.
“Bill Moss’ spirit is here with us,” Judge Larry Puckett said as he represented the Bradley County Bar Association.
“We were a family,” Puckett explained as he described his earlier days as an attorney at Finnell’s office.
“He wanted nothing more than to be fair in his judgment. He understood human frailty,” Puckett said.
Puckett quoted Confucius.
“I am going to appeal to the ancient wisdom. He was a virtuous man. Man must be able to practice five things under heaven. They are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness,” said Puckett.
“As a colleague and friend, he was a brother to a lot of us,” he added.
“He was good company. Bill was a person of strength, physical and ethical,” Puckett said.
Rowland then presented the family with a robe and the judge’s gavel.