Judge Ambrose Paine served as first Mayor of Sevierville
Governor Thomas C. Rye appointed Attorney Ambrose M. Paine of Sevierville to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge G. Mack Henderson in 1916.
Paine served as judge of the second judicial court with diligence and dignity. He did not seek election when the term ended since he was a Democrat in a predominantly Republican circuit. However from that time forth, he was known as Judge Paine.
Ambrose Miller Paine was born July 24, 1866 in Madison County, North Carolina. He was the oldest son of The Reverend Smith Ferguson Paine who was a soldier in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. His mother was Mary Emily McIntire Paine.
Due to the difficult times following the Civil War, he worked hard to receive an education going to whatever public schools were available. In 1886, the Paine Family moved to Sevier County where his father founded Smoky Mountain Academy.
After moving to Sevier County, Paine continued his education at Chilhowee Institute and Murphy College. In March, 1895 he was admitted to the bar. Considering his legal education insufficient, he enrolled in the University of Tennessee College of Law and received his law degree in 1901, taking a two-year course in one year.
He married Susan “Susie” E. Watson, a daughter of David Corn Watson and Mary “Polly” Williams Watson. They had three children: Myrtle (who married J.B. Waters, Sr.) Thomas C. Paine and Earl W. “Cap’ Paine.
Shortly before Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Paine took a train trip there. He expected property values to escalate in the territory once statehood was established, so he bought a section of land for an investment. A year later he returned, decided he had invested in the wrong location, sold his property near Tulsa and purchased property near the little town of Red Bird. He later lamented, “This was one damn big mistake.”
On May 2, 1901 Ambrose Paine was elected first mayor of Sevierville. The first Board of Aldermen included Dr. A.J. Isham, James J. Loveday, Dr. Ashley W. Trotter, J. A. Cox and William Augustus Bowers. C.W. Fox was elected city recorder and Samuel F. Rogers was the first Marshal.
The newly formed council enacted 20 ordinances during the first month in office. Paine chose not to seek another term in 1905. He was succeeded in office by Amos T. Marshall.
Beginning in 1901, Paine was a law partner with James Royal Penland until Mr. Penland moved his practice to Knoxville. Their office was located on Main Street, just right of Penland’s home (which is today the part of Atchley Funeral Home.)
Paine was one of the organizers of Sevier County Bank in 1909 and was one of three board members who served on the building committee for the bank’s first building which opened its doors on Cross Street (now Court Avenue) in 1910.
Sevier County Bank rented office space on the second and third floors of the new building. There was an attorney and a dentist who had offices on the third floor while Paine who served as the bank’s attorney had an office on the second floor.
Paine was tall, over 6 feet, and had excellent posture. He wore a navy blue single-breasted serge suit, white shirt and a bow tie. His hat was a black Stetson with no crease in the crown. He had a thick mustache and was a very distinguished- looking man.
He drove a four-door black Buick and parked in his private parking garage in back of the bank building. The bank had a back stairway he used to get to his office on the second floor.
For many years, Ethel Tinsley Chandler was his secretary. Daily she went to the courthouse in the morning where she checked the Register of Deeds office and listed property transfers, deeds of trust and other documents which had been registered the day before that she felt Judge Paine should know about.
Mrs. Chandler also checked the Circuit and Chancery Clerk’s offices for lawsuits that had been filed. At the jail, she checked for arrests or any reported crimes. Upon returning to the office, she reported the information she had gathered to Judge Paine.
A loyal Democrat, Judge Paine supported Gordon Browning for Governor and was awarded the honorary title of Tennessee Colonel. He was also a good friend of the powerful Senator Kenneth McKeller.
In 1945 Judge Paine traveled with his family to Washington, D.C, to attend the wedding of his granddaughter Mary Louise Waters and R.B. “Pete” Hailey. Senator McKellar, who was President Pro Tem of the senate at the time, sent the vice-president’s car over for Judge Paine’s use. However he was peeved at Senator McKellar over something and refused to ride in the car.
Judge Paine passed away on September 20, 1947 at age 81. At the time of his death, he was president of Sevier County Bank. E.O. Eckle, a close friend and editor of the Sevier County Republican described him as one of the most colorful and prominent of Sevier County citizens.
In a resolution of the Sevier County Bar Association after his death, he was given credit for promoting education and roads in the county. “The highway from Sevierville through Gatlinburg and into North Carolina was brought about by the efforts of Judge Paine,” the resolution stated.
Judge Paine left an indelible mark on the citizens of Sevierville and Sevier County.