You won’t find her name in the history books — at least not yet — but Kate M. Drake of DeKalb county has the distinction of being the first female judge in Tennessee. She was appointed in 1931 by Governor Henry Horton to fill a vacant judgeship and elected to that office the next year.
On November 7, 2006, Judge Drake’s granddaughter Katherine Vines Trumbull contacted Tennessee History for Kids. Now a resident of Connecticut, Mrs. Trumbull said she was delighted to find mention of her grandmother on the web site.
According to Mrs. Trumbull, Kate Drake had been a suffrage activist and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Drake traveled by train to New Orleans in the 1920s to take a linotype course and to Chicago in 1933 to take her brother (Mrs. Trumbull’s uncle) to the Chicago World’s Fair.
“She was barely 5 feet tall but had courage well beyond her physical stature,” Trumbull said.”According to family stories, she successfully defended a timid neighbor from the neighbor’s abusive husband telling him (with frying pan in hand) to quit being a bully and to stop hitting his wife or she would take the frying pan to him.”
Trumbull went on to say that “as a child I was utterly fascinated by my grandmother’s personal writings and drawings. Consequently, she is a person I have always admired. She is also the person for whom I am named and, I suspect, the reason I became an attorney.”
So now we know why Kate Drake was appointed to be a judge!
Another important person to have come from DeKalb County was Joe Evins. Evins was a U.S. representative from 1947 until 1977, and served a longer term than any other Tennessee congressman in history. As such, he is credited with bringing a lot of federal tax dollars into Tennessee and for keeping vibrant projects such as the Arnold Engineering Center in Coffee County and the Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Anderson County.
Joe Evins wasn’t the only famous member of his family. Joe Evins’ father Edgar was a state senator, for whom a state park is named. And his nephew Dan Evins founded the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, which is based in the Wilson County seat of Lebanon.
Here is the DeKalb County Courthouse, where Judge Kate Drake would have held court.