biographical data

Harry Walker Welford biography: 13 things about judge from Memphis, Tennessee


Harry Walker Welford was a third-generation native of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, United States. His favorite song was “Eternal Father, Strong to Save“, a British hymn popularized by the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy in the late 19th century.

Before receiving a scholarship to the Choate School in Wallingford, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA, Wellford attended Snowden Elementary School and Central High School, which are both in Memphis. After graduating from U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, he shipped out to the Pacific Theatre, where he was exposed to the Kamikaze attacks on the Naval fleet off Okinawa and participated in a destroyer raid, one of the few direct attacks on coastal military targets in Japan to occur before the end of World War II.


During World War II, Wellford attended college while participating in the innovative V-12 program funded by the U.S. Navy, which paid for his college education while shuttling him from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, USA to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, USA to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. After the war, he obtained his law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.

Wellford was lawyer, a community leader and a long-time federal district and appellate court judge. He was born in Memphis to Harry Alexander Wellford and Roberta Thompson Prothro Wellford.

Harry was a member of the Memphis Community Relations Committee and he served Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis as a deacon, an elder, a clerk of the session, a representative of the Memphis Synod of the Presbytery, the chair of the budget committee and the chair of the recreational committee. Here are 13 more things about him:

  1. From 1944 to 1946, he was in the U.S. Navy as an ensign. In 1947, he graduated from Washington and Lee University with a bachelor of arts degree.
  2. In 1950, he graduated from Vanderbilt University Law School. From 1950 to 1970, he was  in private practice of law in Memphis.
  3. In 1951, he and Katherine Estes Potts Wellford got married. He was 2 years older than her. They have five children namely Harry “Hal” Wellford, James Beasley Wellford, Buckner Wellford, Katherine “Kate” Wellford Gould and Allison Wellford Parker.
  4. During the 1960s to the 1970s, he and Harry were active participants in the emerging Shelby County Republican Party. He managed the successful campaigns of Howard Baker for U.S. senate in 1966 and Winfield Dunn for governor of Tennessee in 1970.
  5. From December 12, 1970 to September 10, 1982, he was a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. He was appointed by 37th U.S. president Richard Nixon.
  6. On August 18, 1974, his mother died in Memphis at the age of 78.
  7. On August 4, 1976, 38th U.S. president Gerald Ford nominated him to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to replace William Ernest Miller, who had died on April 12, 1976. Civil rights groups objected to his nomination and the U.S. senate never took a vote on his nomination before Ford left office. Instead of him, 39th U.S. president Jimmy Carter nominated Gilbert S. Merritt Jr.
  8. On July 13, 1978, his father died in Shelby County at the age of 82.
  9. On July 15, 1981, his sister Roberta Prothro Wellford West died in Memphis at the age of 59.
  10. From August 20, 1982 to January 15, 1991, he was a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He was appointed by 40th U.S. president Ronald Reagan.
  11. From January 15, 1991 to his death, he served as a senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
  12. On December 24, 2014, his wife died at the age of 87.
  13. On April 17, 2021, he died at the age of 96.

1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.