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A new chapter began for King College alumnus, Steve Sword, on Aug. 1, 2011, as he
was sworn in as the new Knox County [Tennessee] Criminal Court Judge.
Sword's appointment to the bench by Governor Bill Haslam came on the heels of the
resignation of former Judge Richard Baumgartner. Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
filled in until the Governor's appointment was named. The appointment by Sword is
to fill Baumgartner's remaining time on an eight-year term.
After receiving his degree from King College in 1992 in history and Bible religion,
Sword went on to the University of Tennessee Law School, where he received his Juris
Doctor in 1995. He served a short time in the office of James S. Evans and Associates
after law school. In the fall of 1995, Sword accepted a position with the District
Attorney's office in Knoxville, where he has spent the previous 16 years.
I had considered running for a judge position for years, said Sword. I had also considered
running for the District Attorney's slot in 2014 when my boss resigned. However, when
this position became available, I started thinking, 'Am I the right person for this
job at this time?' After I talked with my wife, and prayed with some of my spiritual
mentors, I felt God had put me in this position at this specific time. It was my duty
to apply. So I submitted my application, and went through the process, and now here
While serving in the D.A.'s office, Sword spent the previous eight years in juvenile
court where he prosecuted some cases of child abuse. Over the last four years, however,
child abuse cases were his only concentration.
I prosecuted cases involving child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse, said Sword.
Most of the cases involved child rape, statutory/authority figure type physical abuse,
as well as shaken baby/first-degree murder cases. At the time, I felt that was what
I had been called to do. It was easy to get out of bed in the morning, to come in
to work and prosecute these cases. It isn't something I enjoyed, but was certainly
It was definitely rewarding - being able to help the most innocent victims of child
abuse, who routinely were victims of systematic and horrendous acts of physical and
sexual abuse by the people who were quite often the closest to them, said Sword. They
were difficult cases to prove, and they were emotionally difficult cases to handle,
but I felt I was well equipped to do it, and was quite successful.
Moving forward, Sword said he realizes the position of judge fits who he is as a person,
his personality, and his strengths as an attorney. He anticipates this will be the
last role he has in his legal career. I hope to be a career judge, said Sword.
In addition to his legal career with the Knox County D.A.'s office, and his recent
appointment to the bench, Sword serves his country as a Captain with the U.S. Army
Reserves' 139th Legal Services Organization. The unit with which he has served for
nearly eight years is a group of JAG (Judge Advocate General) officers based out of
I had always wanted to have some military service experience, but it never seemed
to fit where I was in life, said Sword. After the attacks of Sept. 11th, I, like many
Americans, wanted to see how I might serve my nation in this battle. I started exploring,
unsuccessfully at first, to find a slot in the Tennessee National Guard. Eventually,
the U.S. Army Reserves found me. After having to do an age waiver, they accepted me,
and I've been serving ever since.
Through it all, Sword, father of two daughters, ages eight and three, gave his wife,
Alice, 1993 alumnae of King College, credit for being his rock. My wife is an exceptionally
steady person. None of this has shaken her. When I wanted to join the Army, she said
if I felt that is what I was being called to do, she would support my decision. Through
the process of applying for the judicial position, she felt I was an excellent fit.
Alice will be my chief campaign strategist as we go forward with the election process
Sword gave King high praise for the preparation he received. King certainly prepared
me academically to go to UT Law School. More so than that, King prepared me for life.
So much of what I deal with, as a lawyer, in both the state government as well as
my military federal government service, is not so much about the law as it is about
real life. I love that about criminal law. You deal with real people in real life
situations, and King prepared me to handle that very well. My time at King prepared
me well academically, but it prepared me even better for life.