Native by Chance, Returned by Choice: Jim Hawkins


Why does a person return to his hometown? Attorney Jim Hawkins is a good person to ask.

Jim graduated from Gallatin High School, where he earned the Eagle Scout rank and served as drum major for the marching band. Leaving home and working his way through college, Jim graduated from Centre College in Kentucky, where he majored in government and earned his high school teacher certification. He went on to earn a master of science degree in educational policy studies from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, and then received his law degree at Duke University. After law school, Jim clerked for the chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court and lived in Nashville. He returned to Gallatin, practiced law, taught Sunday school, and bought a small farmhouse in Sideview, just outside of Gallatin. After three years, Jim joined Bell South as an in-house counsel. He also got engaged to Betsy Rogers from Chattanooga, whom he had known ever since their families grew up hiking together on Mt. LeConte in the Smokies. Jim was tapped for various in-house legal jobs and business unit leader assignments at BellSouth, which meant frequent transfers. “I had eight different jobs in 14 years because I accepted challenging assignments and we were willing to relocate,” he remembers. “It was ‘a multi-time-zone’ existence.” Jim’s promotions took the family to Birmingham, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and then back to Birmingham.The terrorist attack in New York on 9/11 was a turning point. “It was a recalibration moment in many ways,” Jim remembers. “Betsy and I sat down and talked about the choices we were making. Where did we really want to live? Where did we want to raise our family? I was away from home more than half the time and our three kids were growing up without me. I was missing so much.”They came home to Tennessee. Jim accepted work in Gallatin that allowed for a more balanced existence. He spent six years as managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, and then launched a general practice law office on Gallatin’s historic square in 2008. Jim became deeply involved in his children’s lives and has served on the boards and committees of Habitat for Humanity, Boy Scout Troop 407, Children Are People, Gallatin Rotary Club, and SumnerCounty’s Adult Education Program.“It took moving away and coming back to Gallatin for me to truly appreciate how many wise, caring, and connected people we have in our community,” Jim said. “I grew up with many of the people I interact with today, and it has been wonderful to get to know them as adults.”Jim’s volunteer work with his children’s public schools and his deep respect for educators and school staff members propelled him to a successful run for the Sumner County School Board. “I believe that stronger schools make for a stronger local community,” says Jim. “It means a lot to me to get to know the hearts of folks throughout Sumner County's communities, to listen to them, and to work with them on things that matter.” Jim adds, “We're called to love and treasure our neighbors, and that means showing God's love for us through our love for others. That's how I want to live my life.”