RUTLEDGE – Longtime Rutledge attorney and Grainger County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Wayne “Mouse” Wolfenbarger passed away last week at age 77.
He spent 32 years in the judiciary, retiring in 2014. His son, Lane Wolfenbarger, was elected to succeed him.
He graduated from Rutledge High School in 1960, obtained his bachelor’s degree from Carson-Newman College and his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. He opened his law practice in Rutledge in 1967 and began full-time practice after serving six months active duty in the National Guard. He was first elected judge in 1982.
In an interview with Grainger Today after announcing his retirement, Wolfenbarger said the biggest change in crime over the years was the growth in drug abuse. He said he also saw a significant increase in juvenile crime throughout his years on the bench. He said trying juvenile cases gave him both his greatest satisfaction and his greatest disappointment.
“Without a doubt, seeing some juveniles do a turnaround, change their attitude, and their way of doing things. The number of juveniles I’ve been able to save has been most rewarding,” he said.
On the other hand, the most dissatisfying part of the job “was not being able to do more to help the juveniles.”
Services for Wolfenbarger were held Tuesday at Smith-Reagan Funeral Home, followed by burial in Grainger Memorial Gardens.