James O. Bass ’34: 1910-2019

Harvard Law School's oldest alumnus dies at the age of 108

James Bass Sr

Credit: Bass, Berry & Sims PLC

James O. Bass, Sr. ’34, who was profiled in 2017 as Harvard Law’s oldest living alumnus, died on May 22, 2019, at the age of 108. A Nashville native who began practicing at Bass, Berry & Sims with his father after graduating from Harvard Law in 1934, Bass helped grow the firm from six attorneys to 300 with offices in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Washington D.C. He formally retired from the firm many years ago, but continued to go the office several days a week until very recently and acted as mentor and sounding board to many attorneys throughout the firm.

An influential legal, business and political leader in Tennessee, Bass served as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1936-1938, and as a State Senator from 1940-1942. In the 1960s, when Nashville was embroiled in a rising tide of civil rights protests, Bass helmed a committee of community leaders to negotiate conflicts between business owners and civil rights advocates.

The full life of a larger-than-life lawyer

Bass Berry & Sims lawyer James Cheek LL.M. ’68 praised Bass’ contributions to the firm and to the Nashville Bar.

“His presence was majestic and deeply felt in the firm as he always exhibited the highest sense of professional competence and integrity,” Cheek said in a personal remembrance that appeared on the firm’s website. “The firm’s success has been built on his shoulders and he never wavered in his phenomenal support and contributions to its success.”

During WWII, after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Bass joined the U.S. Army and applied to be a judge advocate. As part of the 104th division, he arrived in Normandy, France, shortly after D-Day and served with the division in northern France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany.