44 North Second Street, Suite 502 Memphis, TN 38103
Attorney Walter Bailey County served as Shelby County Tennessee commissioner for over 40 years. He is recognized as the longest serving county official in America. Walter was born in August, 21, 1940 in Memphis, Tennessee, and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School as a star football athlete. He went on to attend Southern University on a football scholarship, where he was an All-American candidate but became active in the civil rights activities organized by his brother, D’Army Bailey, who also later became a civil rights attorney and Judge.
Bailey later received his J.D. degree from the Southern University Law Center and founded the Walter Bailey Law Firm. Walter Bailey became involved in several important civil rights-related cases, including the case that desegregated Shelby County public schools and the legal defense of Martin Luther King Jr. during the sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. Further, in 1985, Bailey served as lead counsel on the U.S. Supreme Court case, Tennessee vs. Garner, which forbade police officers’ use of deadly force to make an arrest unless they have probable cause to believe that the fugitive posed a deadly threat to them or bystanders.
In 1971, Bailey was elected to an unexpired term on the Shelby County Commission and was elected to a full term in the same role in 1972. Bailey served in this capacity until 2006, when term limits required him not to run. During his tenure on the commission, he was elected chairman pro tempore and then chairman proper for two terms. While on the commission, Bailey fought to rename county parks that had been named after various members of the Confederacy. In 2010, once Bailey had waited the mandated period of time, he ran unopposed for the Shelby County Commission. Upon retirement from the County, the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center was re-named “The Walter L. Bailey, Jr. Criminal Justice Center.” It stands across the street from the Judge D’Army Bailey Court House. Walter enthusiastically continues to practice law today.