The Francis S. Guess Bridge to Equality Award was created to honor the memory of a man who served our community with vigor, commitment, and pride for decades. He found his own bridge to equality and then created the same opportunities for others throughout the country and here at home. The award is given annually by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT) at a luncheon to individuals who, like Francis, have helped others attain equality and have created opportunities for others throughout the country and here at home. Guess, who died two years ago, was well known in the community for his philanthropy work and civil rights advocacy. This year’s honoree is Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr., who dreamed of becoming an attorney as a child growing up in Nashville.
A trail-blazing civic leader, Crenshaw became the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee this spring. Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. was born on December 17, 1956 in Nashville, Tennessee. Crenshaw received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1978 from Vanderbilt University, then received a Juris Doctor in 1981 from Vanderbilt University Law School. From 1981 to 1982, he served as a law clerk to the Judges of the Chancery and Probate Court of Davidson County, Tennessee. From 1982 to 1984, he served as a law clerk to Judge John Trice Nixon of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. He served as Assistant Attorney General of the State of Tennessee from 1984 to 1987. From 1987 to 1990, he was an associate at the law firm of Passino, Delaney & Hildebrand. He joined the law firm of Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis, LLP., in 1990 as an associate, becoming partner in 1994, and becoming the first African-American attorney and partner at the firm, specializing in labor and employment law.
On February 4, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Crenshaw to serve as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, to the seat vacated by Judge William Joseph Haynes Jr. He received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 10, 2015, and on July 9, 2015 his nomination was reported out of committee by voice vote. The Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination on April 11, 2016 by a vote of 92 to 0. He received his commission on April 12, 2016. At the time of his confirmation, Waverly is only the second African-American federal judge on active status in Tennessee. He became Chief Judge on April 15, 2017 after the resignation of Kevin H. Sharp.
The Francis S. Guess Bridge to Equality Fund has been created to help provide equal access to the American Dream, in perpetuity. No one who knew him can imagine what Nashville would have been like without Francis S. Guess. The child raised in public housing became the man whose fingerprints can be found on almost every major civic effort in our community. Throughout his distinguished life, Francis S. Guess’ body of work has included the widest range of worthy causes from economic development to the preservation of musical heritage to investment in the human condition. He has served on the National Civil Rights Commission; has acted as Commissioner for the Tennessee departments of Labor and General Services under then Governor Lamar Alexander; and has provided volunteer support to more than 100 organizations.
As a community we honor his memory with gratitude for his many accomplishments. To ensure that his efforts continue, CFMT provides personalized charitable solutions to help you make a difference and enrich the community in ways that matter to you. When you go to The Community Foundation with a charitable dream or idea, they help ensure you meet your goals efficiently, effectively and with meaning. With or without great wealth, donors come from every corner of the community to achieve their charitable goals and impact a broad range of needs. Every day, people choose The Community Foundation to make an impact in our community. Because of their generosity, they are able to address the changing needs of Middle Tennessee, ensuring its future as a great place to call home.
The Luncheon is in the Davidson Room of the Music City Center on Wednesday, May 10 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. The individual luncheon ticket is $80 (tangible benefit $40); Tables are $800 per table of ten (tangible benefit $400). To attend the luncheon, or to learn more about the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, go to their website at www.cfmt.org