April 14, 2014 - Harrogate, Tennessee — Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) is morning the loss of Robert Watson, a member of its Board of Trustees and a prominent attorney in Knoxville, Tenn. Watson passed away after a brief illness on Friday, April 11, 2014.

Watson, a partner with Watson, Roach, Batson, Rowell and Lauderback, played an integral role in the founding of the LMU-John J. Duncan School of Law (LMU-DSOL). He first served as chair of the advisory board as LMU began developing its plans for a school of law in August 2008. He worked tirelessly to bring together a who’s who of legal minds to shape the young legal program. In May 2009, Watson officially joined the LMU Board of Trustees.

“Robert has been a passionate supporter of the Duncan Law School as well as a friend and colleague for all of us at LMU,” President B. James Dawson said. “He was a thoughtful and wise policy maker for Lincoln Memorial University.”

Watson worked closely with LMU administration and the school of law’s namesake, Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr., to establish LMU-DSOL which opened its doors in August 2009. He was among the speakers at its Inaugural Class graduation in May 2013.

“Lynn and I were very saddened to hear our good friend Robert Watson has passed away. Robert and I have been friends for many, many years, and he is one of the finest men I have ever known and one of the most respected members of Knoxville’s legal community,” Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. said. “He invested many hours in helping to establish the law school at Lincoln Memorial University, and it could not have happened without Robert’s work. Our prayers tonight are with his wife Pat and their children and grandchildren, who have lost a beloved husband, father and grandfather way too young.”

LMU Chairman O.V. Autry “Pete” DeBusk announced that the LMU-DSOL Courtroom will be named in Watson’s honor. “The devotion that Robert had to the success of this school was nothing short of amazing. He recognized very early on the potential this venture had to impact this community and became engrossed in it,” DeBusk said. “He was so engaged in the school that he would often visit and audit classes with the students. Robert’s support for the Duncan School of Law was constant. Without a doubt, LMU’s law school would not be a reality today without Robert Watson.”

Watson was engaged in complex litigation involving issues of civil rights, medical malpractice, legal malpractice and corporate litigation. In his lifetime he defended more than 1,000 different clients in civil rights cases in Tennessee. He was chief trial attorney for the Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool and represented numerous cities, doctors, lawyers and police officers throughout Tennessee. Watson represented both Knox County and its employees as well as Knoxville and its employees for over 25 years. He was certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, having been listed as a Tennessee Civil Trial Specialist since 1996.

Watson briefed and argued numerous cases in the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was a member of the Defense Research Institute, the Knoxville Bar Association and the Tennessee Bar Association. He was listed in the Mid-South Super Lawyers from 2006 to the time of his death. He was a fellow in Litigation Counsel of Americas. In 2012, Watson was elected a Fellow of the Knoxville Bar Foundation.

He was a graduate of the University of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee College of Law. He is survived by his wife, Pat, his three children and their spouses, Beth Watson and Dr. Danny Drinnen, Christy Watson and Benj Lauderback, and Drs. Luke and Jackie Watson; as well as six grandchildren.

A celebration of Robert's life will be on Wednesday, April 16, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Northshore Drive, at 3 p.m.

Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423-869-6280 or e-mail at

CAPTION: Trustee Robert Watson speaking at the inaugrual class graduation in May 2013.

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