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Title: Bringing renewable energy and efficiency to real estate development

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By Tricia Adrian and Allison Gilbert

Sustainable development is needed now more than ever. Cost concerns have held back many models for such development, but an emerging financing framework is poised to change that.

Tennessee state legislators and the Memphis City Council have already prepared a way forward for it — and there is every reason for communities in Shelby County and across the Mid-South to embrace a development financing model backed by a robust track record.

C-PACE, or C-PACER in Tennessee, is shorthand for “Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resilience.” In T.C.A. § 68-205-101, the state’s addition of “R” to the popular acronym emphasizes allowing resilience improvements.

The act provides an alternative path for commercial property owners and developers to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings with low-cost financing provided by private lenders, shielding them from rising energy prices in the medium to long term. Money lent out is then paid back with a voluntary assessment on property tax bills.

This program allows more renewable energy and resource efficiency to be unleashed in a balanced way. New construction, building retrofits and even gut rehabs of existing structures can take place with no upfront costs. Offices, mixed-use developments, hotels and apartment buildings are just a few of the kinds of properties qualifying for C-PACE financing.

The State of Tennessee and the City of Memphis — the first municipality in the state to do so — have both passed the necessary legislation to make C-PACER an accessible financing model to property owners and developers.

Other local governments that embrace this model would be securing themselves considerable efficiency for projects during financially lean periods when budgets will not go as far. There is a reliable return on investment, both in the short- and long-term, harnessing capital that businesses could otherwise use to invest in sustainable and responsible improvement projects.

Municipalities themselves only have to approve the financing model in legislation, instead of putting forward any taxpayer funds. As the US Department of Energy notes, while state and then local government approval is needed, C-PACE is not a federal program. Therefore, it does not require public money to operate. Arguably, this presents an easy and attractive sell for community members — the closest thing to a “win-win” as can be imagined for development.

Lives and businesses are tangibly improved through things like more efficient building fenestration, HVAC upgrades and even the implementation of solar power, which is typically regarded as too expensive to even consider upfront. The projects can be recovered as operating expenses, and obligations for payment are transferable upon sale of the property.

C-PACE has a strong track record of economic benefit. For commercial projects across the U.S., more than $3 billion in investments and 42,000 job years have been measured since 2009, 72% of which either went toward energy efficiency or renewables.

Projects, of course, need to include protections for low-income communities and businesses operating there. This must be paired with robust quality assurance standards for participating contractors and clear, easy-to-access information on loan conditions and repayment terms. But these are worthwhile steps, given the benefits.

To unleash the potential of this emerging, dynamic method of development, we urge every community in the Mid-South to join them.

This article originally appeared in The Daily Memphian.

Title: Best Lawyers Names Jeffrey L. Griffin Lawyer of the Year; Eight Attorneys as Ones to Watch

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC today announced Jeffrey L. Griffin has been named Lawyer of the Year in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Several Harris Shelton attorneys also received recognition in this year’s Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America.

First published in 1983, Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected ranking guide in the legal profession. It recognizes top legal talent in more than 70 countries using peer review methodologies.

Griffin was awarded Lawyer of the Year for his work in health care litigation in Memphis. Best Lawyers presents this designation to only one individual in a given geographical region and practice area each year. His experience extends over two decades of representing hospitals, physicians, advanced practice providers, and other health care professionals. Griffin also represents small and mid-sized businesses and their owners in disputes both within their business, as well as with third parties.

“Jeffrey’s passion and experience in the health care field is an invaluable asset for the firm,” said Harris Shelton Managing Member Brett Hughes. “I’m incredibly proud of Jeffrey and the rest of our team who were recognized in this year’s awards.”

Now in its third edition, Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch awards are extended to attorneys in the earlier stages of their legal careers for outstanding professional performance. Those who are recognized are selected following the same peer review process as that of Best Lawyers. Attorneys that received this year’s honor include:

Amber Griffin Shaw – Personal Injury Litigation (Plaintiffs), Memphis

Taylor B. Davidson – Commercial Litigation; Medical Malpractice Law (Defendants), Memphis

Kelsey Duckett – Health Care Law; Trusts and Estates, Memphis

Sara Garner – Health Care Law; Medical Malpractice Law (Defendants), Memphis

Emily Hamm Huseth – Appellate Practice; Health Care Law, Memphis

Megan Lane – Family Law; Health Care Law; Medical Malpractice Law (Defendants), Memphis

Warren A. Stafford – Real Estate Law; Trusts and Estates, Memphis

Henry B. Talbot – Commercial Litigation, Memphis


With each new publication, attorneys must maintain their votes in subsequent polls to remain listed. Harris Shelton attorneys who have received the Best Lawyers designation in 2022 include: Steven Douglass, Paul A. Matthews, John Ryder, James L. Kirby, M. Anderson Cobb, Jr., Charles Drennon, J. Kevin Walsh, Edward J. McKenney, Jr., Neal Graham, Max Shelton, George T. Wheeler, Jr., Abigail Webb Sala, Will Wyatt, Christopher Campbell, Brett Hughes, Karen S. Koplon, Jonathan T. Martin, W. Bradley Gilmer, W. Timothy Hayes, Jr., Jerry O. Potter, James D. Wilson, Barbara B. Lapides, Kannon C. Conway, Allison T. Gilbert, James Jalenak, G. Rice Byars, Jr., Susan Callison, Tricia M. Y. Tweel, and J. Matthew Kirby.

Title: The National Black Lawyers Names Christopher Campbell as a Top 100 Member

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Harris Shelton today announced that Christopher Campbell has been selected for inclusion into The National Black Lawyers Top 100 Black Lawyers in Tennessee. Campbell’s primary practice areas include health care liability defense, construction defense, insurance defense, transportation and carrier defense, and municipality/educational defense.

This honor is given to only the top 100 African American lawyers in each state or region with reputations for providing excellent legal representation in their respective practice areas. Membership into The National Black Lawyers is by invitation only and is based on current member referrals and independent research.

“This recognition of Christopher is yet another reason we were confident in choosing him to transition into managing our relationship and ongoing projects with Baptist,” said Harris Shelton Member Max Shelton. “Christopher is an experienced trial lawyer with over 24 years of experience. His attention to detail, extensive knowledge of the law, and ability to manage relationships are all such good qualities in a leader. We are pleased that the National Black Lawyers recognizes this, too.”

The National Black Lawyers is a professional organization that celebrates legal excellence and promotes their attorneys as subject-matter experts, facilitates the exchange of timely information to enable their members to maintain their status as leaders, and represents a strong national network of top African American attorneys.

“I am glad to see the National Black Lawyers recognize Christopher for the skills he brings to his clients, including Baptist,” commented Greg Duckett, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corporation. “We look forward to working with him in the future and are pleased to know he will be at the forefront of our external legal efforts and setting the standard as a Top 100 attorney.”

To learn more about The National Black Lawyers, visit www.nbltop100.org

Title: An overview of eminent domain law in Tennessee

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Perhaps you own land that has been in your family for generations. Or, taking it one step further, you operate a profitable business on the land and have no intention of ever selling it.

Now, imagine that one day, you receive a letter in the mail telling you the government is taking your land to build a new interstate. What are your rights? 

Defining eminent domain

There are several key points to understand about eminent domain. First, the government has the power of eminent domain, which is the inherent ability of a sovereign entity to take private property for the use of the public. The government’s eminent domain powers are absolute and total, limited only by the United States constitutional mandate of public use and just compensation.

Although specific eminent domain laws differ from state-to-state, Tennessee’s Constitution states that “no man’s particular services shall be demanded, or property taken, or applied to public use, without the consent of his representatives, or without just compensation being made therefore.”

Who can exercise the power of eminent domain?

The right of eminent domain may be legislatively delegated by the state to a county, municipality, public service corporation, private corporation, or even an individual, subject only to the constitutional limitations that it is exercised for a public use, and that the owner receives just compensation for the property rights taken and any limitations imposed by the specific statutory authority.

The power of eminent domain has been delegated to counties (section 29-17-201) and to municipalities (sections 29-17-301 and 29-17-901). It has also been generally delegated to any person or corporation authorized by law to construct railroads, turnpikes, canals, toll bridges, roads, causeways, or other public improvement works, under the provisions of state code section 29-16-101.

What are the legal requirements for exercising the power of eminent domain?

Under Tennessee law, property can only be condemned for a lawful public use. The condemning party must possess the proper delegation of eminent domain authority from the State to condemn property. In all situations, if the right to condemn exists, just compensation must be paid for the property being taken.

Condemning authorities must also obtain an appraisal of the property to be taken. They must file and record right-of-way plans, allow the property owner to examine the required appraisal, and negotiate in good faith with the property owner.

Can I challenge the right of the government to take my property?

Successful challenges to the government’s right to take are rare. In most cases, the taking is clearly for a public purpose, such as a new road, a sewer, or a power line. However, there can be exceptions, and you should speak with an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as possible if you have questions about the government’s right to take your land, because the time for challenging the right to take is short. 

Assuming the right to take is not challenged, then the sole issue for the case becomes obtaining the just compensation that’s due to the property owner for the property taken.

How is just compensation determined?

Article 1, Section 21 of the Tennessee Constitution requires the award of fair cash market value of the property taken to the property owner. 

Additional compensation is provided to property owners in condemnation proceedings under Tennessee statutes. Tennessee Code section 29-16-114 states that just compensation includes the value of the land or rights taken without deduction and incidental damages, if any, to the remaining property of the owner. Generally, a property owner has the right to demand a jury to determine the just compensation due.

How is fair market value defined?

Fair market value of the property taken is to be established as of the date of taking. The date of taking is the date the condemning authority obtains legal possession of the land, which occurs after a petition for condemnation is filed — assuming the right to take is not challenged.

Fair cash market value means the amount of money that a willing buyer would pay for the property and that a willing seller would accept, when the owner is not compelled to buy, and the landowner is not compelled to sell. In determining fair cash market value, the jury in a condemnation case is instructed to consider all the property’s legitimate potential uses.

The market value of the property is to be determined without regard to any increase or decrease in value because of the announcement or construction of the public improvement for which the property is taken.

What if only part of my property is taken? Am I entitled to recover damages for the remaining part? 

In a partial condemnation case, a case in which the owner is left with remaining property, the owner is entitled to any decrease or diminution in the value of the remaining property as additional damages. These incidental damages (known in some jurisdictions as “severance damages”) to remaining property are measured by the difference in the remaining property’s fair cash market value immediately before and immediately after the taking.

Many factors have been recognized as relevant to the determination of incidental damages, including the loss of its use for any lawful purpose, any unsightliness of the property or inconvenience in its use, any impairment to the owner’s access to the property or between the property and nearby streets and highways, and any other consideration that could reduce the fair cash market value of the remaining property.

If the taking will cause me to lose my business, can I recover for my loss of profits and loss of the business? 

In general, no. The Tennessee Pattern Jury Instructions guide a jury “not to include in your verdict any sum for loss of business or inconvenience to business, if any.”

Am I entitled to compensation for moving personal property and equipment because of a taking?

To the extent that the condemnation of any parcel of real property requires the removal of furniture, household belongings, fixtures, equipment, machinery, or stock in trade of any person in rightful possession, regardless of whether such person has a legal interest in said property, section 29-16-114 requires that the reasonable expense of the removal of such property shall be considered in the assessment of incidental damages.

The reasonable expense of the removal of such property shall be construed as including the cost of any necessary disconnection, dismantling, or dissembling, the loading and drayage to another location not more than 50 miles distant, and the reassembling, reconnecting, and installing at that location.

Am I entitled to recover attorney fees, expert fees, or other litigation costs?

Unlike the law in many other states, attorney fees, expert witness fees, and other litigation expenses and costs incurred by an owner in defending a condemnation action are generally not recoverable. According to Tennessee Code sections 29-17-106 and 29-17-912, there are two exceptions to this rule: If the final judgment is that the acquiring party cannot acquire the real property by condemnation, or if the proceeding is abandoned by the acquiring party.

It should be noted, above all, that the specifics of legal issues vary between individual cases. No general guidance can substitute for the advice of a skilled eminent domain attorney, whose advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity after learning of possible or impending action.

This article was written by Kannon Conway and originally appeared in the Memphis Business Journal.

Title: Amber Griffin Shaw Named Town of Atoka Attorney

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh is proud to announce that Amber Griffin Shaw, managing partner of our Covington, Tennessee, office, has been appointed attorney for the Town of Atoka. The city of more than 10,000 citizens is located in Tipton County, just north of the Shelby County line.

“It is an immense privilege to serve as legal counsel for the Town of Atoka,” said Shaw. “And it’s equally as exciting to have a front row seat to the growth and forthcoming projects that will make a tremendous impact in this vibrant community.”

Over the last five years, Atoka has consistently been named the most affordable place to live in Tennessee by SmartAsset. In annual research studies, towns of more than 5,000 people are ranked on an affordability index weighing property taxes, homeowners’ insurance fees, and mortgage payments relative to income.

As Ford’s Blue Oval City electric vehicle manufacturing plant gears up to open just 25 miles from Atoka, Shaw is preparing for potential legal challenges and the increase in population and infrastructure it brings.

“I am looking forward to assisting Atoka as it continues to plan for more people to relocate, a variety of new improvements, and the development of standards that will provide a desirable place to live and work for many years to come,” said Shaw.

For 15 years, Shaw has honed her skills as a lawyer across West Tennessee, representing individuals, counties, and municipalities in a wide variety of circumstances. Shaw has been awarded membership in a variety of categories presented by The National Trial Lawyers including Top 40 Under 40, Top 25 Products Liability, and Top 25 Personal Injury. Shaw has previously been named Tipton County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Woman of the Year and Memphis Area Legal Services Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.

Title: In memoriam: John Ryder

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It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Harris Shelton member John Ryder. For more than two decades, John was an integral part of the firm, loved and admired by his partners, working tirelessly for his clients in bankruptcy law, commercial litigation and election law.

John received his Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University in 1974 and served as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School teaching election law. His highlight-filled career included time spent working as a delinquent tax attorney for Shelby County and an assistant county attorney, as well as a member of the Shelby County Home Rule Charter Commission.

He also served as General Counsel to the Republican National Committee from 2013-2017 and as Chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association from 2017-2018. During that time, John was honored as the RNLA Lawyer of the Year. In 2018, he was nominated by President Trump to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and served as Chairman of the Board.

He has been listed in Best Lawyers since 1987. He received the Best of the Bar Lifetime Achievement Award from the Memphis Business Journal and is listed in among its Power 100. In 2019, he received the Peck Medal for service in the law from Wabash College.

John’s contributions to the legal field are numerous, and he will be missed not only for his professional accomplishments, but also his personal ones. He was incredibly kind and a friend to all he met.

Amidst his busy schedule, he still found time to support organizations that were important to him, including Opera Memphis, Rotary Club of Memphis, YMCA of Greater Memphis and Bridges.

John was married to his wife, Lain, for more than 40 years. They have two daughters and one grandson. He was also in the vestry at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Please join us in sending condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

Title: Harris Shelton Managing Member Brett Hughes Selected as Fellow, Memphis Bar Foundation

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC, one of Memphis’ largest law firms, today announced that Brett Hughes has been recognized as a Fellow of the Memphis Bar Foundation.

Attorneys and judges are nominated to become Fellows in recognition of their distinguished service to the legal profession and their adherence to the highest standards of professional ethics and conduct. Each year, the Foundation selects a new class of nominees.

“As a long-time member of the Memphis Bar Association, it’s an honor to be recognized by the philanthropic side of the organization,” said Brett Hughes, Harris Shelton Managing Member. “The Foundation has an extended history of well-known Fellows, and I am humbled to be named a member of the 2022 class alongside an impressive group of legal talent.”

Hughes is the managing member of Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC. Before joining the firm in 1998, he served as an assistant district attorney general for Shelby County. He primarily works with businesses, including as an outside corporate counsel, to assist them with their commercial litigation, transactional, contract, employment, non-compete and insurance issues. He also frequently represents hospitals, healthcare professionals, lawyers, architects and engineers defending professional negligence claims, and assists individuals with their contract and personal injury matters.

Harris Shelton’s award-winning team of more than 50 highly skilled attorneys is licensed to practice in 12 states and covers a broad range of over 62 practice areas.

Title: Harris Shelton Announces Sara Garner’s Promotion to Member

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Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh, PLLC, one of Memphis’ largest law firms, today announced that Sara M. Garner has been promoted to a Member of the award-winning group.

“Sara Garner is a dedicated advocate for her clients,” attributed to Harris Shelton attorney. “Her move to Member was a natural one, fueled by her unique background and varied legal experience. She works diligently to ensure that her clients are supported throughout the entire legal process. As a Member of the firm, I am confident she will continue to excel.”

Garner received her Juris Doctorate from University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2014. She previously earned a Bachelor of Arts from Christian Brothers University in 2010. Before joining Harris Shelton as an attorney, Garner worked as an extern in the legal departments at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Prior to attending law school, she served with the Memphis Police Department for five years as a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Officer.

“Becoming a Member of Harris Shelton is undoubtedly the most exciting professional experience in my career,” said Garner. “Since graduating from law school, I have had the privilege to learn and grow under incredible leadership here. I look forward to making the most of this opportunity.”

Garner has received numerous awards for her work. This year, she was named in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch for her defense work in health care and medical malpractice law. This recognition is given to attorneys who are earlier in their careers for outstanding professional excellence in private practice. In past years, she has received two Excellence for the Future Awards from the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) for Professional Responsibility and for Advanced Legal Argument and Appellate Practice.

Garner is licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee and has been admitted to the U.S. District Court Western District of Tennessee and the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas. Her areas of specialty include medical malpractice defense, municipal law, and construction defense. She is a proud member of the Memphis Bar Association and the Tennessee Bar Association.

Title: Three things to know when updating your will

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April 4, 2022

Passing intestate, or with a will that fails to cover all the bases, presents an array of challenges especially acute for business owners and individuals with large assets.

Perhaps unlike tax planning, wills and estates are two items that Americans of all ages and backgrounds either put off or leave to chance. A survey by Gallup in 2021 revealed that only 46% of adults had a finished will. The research revealed a significant age disparity: Whereas people over the age of 65 were considerably more likely to have an up-to-date will, only about 36% aged 30 to 49 had one, and just over half of those above 50 did.

If the abruptness and profound tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored one lesson in estate planning, it is that time is not always on people’s sides. The consequences for not having a will at all, or for having one that fails to cover all bases, can be daunting and made more severe for people with businesses or large amounts of investments and personal property.

For those looking for straightforward places to start on developing or improving their estates, an experienced attorney should collaborate with them on three core areas. 

The first is to clearly establish bequests and inheritances, keeping their unique family structures and personal relationships in mind. The second, for business owners and partners, is to reexamine proprietorship or other legal agreements to determine who takes control and how assets will be settled. And the third is to maximize tax and charitable arrangements to ensure that survivors are adequately cared for once they are gone.

To provide background, regardless of whether a person dies with or without a will, probate court will play a role. With a will, the court will review provisions for the distribution of personal property, the resolution of debts, and matters like custody of minor children. Where a will does not exist, the state’s intestacy statutes will determine how these matters are settled, except for assets with inbuilt designations such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts. 

While survivors can petition the court to be named a state administrator, and thus given the responsibility of paying debts and distributing assets, they would be doing so according to intestacy laws. In practice, this can produce vastly different outcomes than what the deceased may have desired, or sometimes, what is even in the survivors’ true interests. Even at first glance, it is obvious how a variety of individual situations would not be covered. This makes the first recommendation particularly critical, not only in having a will, but ensuring that inheritances, guardianships and trusteeships are efficiently cared for. 

Wills and estate plans must be both tailored and periodically reviewed or adjusted to reflect family relationships and prevent conflicts of interest. This is not simply about ensuring assets do not end up in the wrong hands. A prime example is effectively “separating powers” by considering the appointment of a different estate trustee from the person named the legal guardian of minor children, avoiding a potentially thorny situation. 

Second, business owners should clearly emphasize the next steps for their company in the will. Sole proprietorship businesses, for instance, become effectively extinct if their owner dies with no will, with assets being liquidated to settle debts and tax obligations and then similarly distributed according to intestate statutes. While limited liability companies are clearer in theory, with rules existing under their operating agreements to determine what happens when a shareholder dies, intestacy law can still enter the picture for selling shares or inheritance tax issues. This may bring survivors into conflict with surviving shareholders, and impede on the business’s success in the long-term.

Third, more broadly, whether the person has a will or is just getting started, it will be important to review its tax and legal provisions carefully. This includes creating charitable trusts that minimize exposure to capital gains tax and reduce the estate tax burden, as well as maximizing charitable donations during the person’s lifetime. Survivors should be as prepared as possible to succeed, in the family business or otherwise, through clear discussions about what is contained in the will, and easing children and grandchildren into the roles eventually expected of them as early as possible.

A close collaboration with estate planning attorneys will produce the most optimal outcome, combining asset and wealth management knowledge with a nuanced understanding of the legal underpinnings of a will. This will be crucial for preventing or minimizing disputes. Existing wills should be regularly reviewed, too – even if nothing has happened to necessitate major changes.

While still living, people exercise maximum control over their legacies and positions in the world. But when they are gone, so is their control, with the fate of what comes next left to their survivors. This, above all, is the most powerful reason why “estate matters” should be at or near the top of priority lists this year.

Title: Harris Shelton Attorney Joe Hanover Recognized at Equality Trailblazers Dedication Ceremony

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Photo courtesy of the Downtown Memphis Commission

Harris Shelton was built upon the historical legacy of attorneys who’ve played pivotal roles in major legislative changes. The firm was founded as a result of the joining of two of the oldest law firms in Memphis – Harris, Shelton, Dunlap, Cobb & Ryder PLLC and Hanover, Walsh, Jalenak & Blair PLLC.

Joseph Hanover, partner of the latter firm, was posthumously recognized for his contributions to the Suffragist movement and the ratification of the 19th amendment at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Equality Trailblazers Dedication Ceremony that took place on Sunday, March 27. 

Hanover was a House of Representatives floor leader who kept pro-suffrage votes together. A Polish immigrant who came to the United States at 11 years old, Hanover became a well known attorney and humanitarian as his career advanced. He had deep roots in Memphis, and he attended area public schools and went on to earn his degree from the law school at the University of Memphis.

As a state, Tennessee played an important role in the movement, as it was the final one to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. During the Trailblazers Dedication Ceremony, a monument to 11 women and one man (Joe Hanover) was unveiled to the public. This public memorial honors Shelby County leaders who participated in the nonviolent efforts to win the right to vote for American women. 

For more information on Hanover’s life and accomplishments, consider visiting the monument located on the promenade behind the University of Memphis law school, or read “Why Can’t Mother Vote” for a glimpse into his work.