I think it’s a sign of my own advancing age that I find myself writing periodically about someone I have known well, but who has recently died. I’ve written within the past few years about Bill Gamble, Dorman Stout and Pal Barger.
Now I find myself writing about Gorman Waddell, my law partner who died at home on Feb. 13. Gorman’s health had been declining for the past several years, but he gamely practiced law until the very end. His last business meeting was on Feb. 11.
A native of Kentucky, Gorman grew up in Johnson City and took a business degree from ETSU. Law School at Vanderbilt, where he was a classmate of fellow Times News columnist Bruce Shine, followed.
After briefly practicing law in Chattanooga, he moved to Kingsport, where along with Frank Moore and Dorman Stout in 1966 he was a founding partner in Moore Stout & Waddell, one of the firms that later became the present Wilson Worley Moore Gamble & Stout, or just “Wilson Worley” for short.
Here in Kingsport as a young lawyer, Gorman quickly developed a good reputation in what we used to call “corporate law,” especially in structuring the organization of professional practices of all types. His area of concentration, however, was on medical practices, in which he worked closely with practice management consultant Jerry Case.
Today we have general partnerships, corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, professional limited liability companies, limited liability partnerships, and professional limited liability partnerships. Most of these forms of business organization did not exist in the 1960s.
Gorman Waddell and Jerry Case turned out to be trailblazers. Gorman found in the back of the old general corporation act something called a “professional association” and decided to recommend that groups of physicians and other professionals organize their businesses in that way.
This form of business organization, which soon changed to “professional corporation” as a result of amendment, became very popular.
Medical practices, dental practices and other businesses all over Northeast Tennessee can trace their origins to Gorman’s handiwork. He was present at the creation of any number of businesses, many of which you know today.
Gorman also influenced other lawyers. Lawyers are notorious copycats. I have seen Gorman’s drafting in contracts written by lawyers outside as well as inside our office.
Gorman is perhaps best known for his longtime service as outside counsel for the Kingsport Economic Development Board. He worked in that capacity for over 25 years. As a result, someone can drive around the greater Kingsport area and see all manner of projects in which he had a hand. The casual observer wouldn’t know that. But the members of the KEDB knew it well.
I knew Gorman as a friend as well as a business partner. He was a loyal friend, and a loving husband and father. His two sons, Bruce and Andy, have long since moved away from the Tri-Cities. Both have become very successful. Until recently, when his health no longer permitted it, he met them every year for a golf outing.
If you knew Gorman, you knew he was a wine “enthusiast.” At least, that’s the term he used. He would bristle if you called him a “wine snob,” although of course he was. You didn’t want him to catch you drinking a white zinfandel. I didn’t do that, but I still never rated an invitation to a meeting of his wine-tasting club.
Gorman was an avid flower gardener. But he didn’t like having to water his flowers and preferred Mother Nature do it for him.
I have known it to rain for a week, so that everyone around him was praying for sunshine, and then after a single day of sun, Gorman would grunt and say, “We need rain.”
Once, when I heard that remark shortly after an especially dismal rainy spell, I snapped and said, “Waddell, if you had your way, your flowers would be beautiful, but we would be beating off alligators with clubs, because we’d be living in a bleeping SWAMP.” He only grinned.
In sports, his passions were the Chicago Bears and the Vanderbilt Commodores. With respect to Vandy, he suffered under years of domination by the Tennessee Volunteers, especially in football. But if you were a Vols fan, and a year came when Vanderbilt won, you needed to watch out. Gorman was coming.
Once someone has left us for eternity, we can’t get them back. That’s sad.
But their memories shine. And that’s wonderful.