Longtime judge Haywood Barry will retire effective Dec. 31 as the General Sessions Division II judge after nearly five decades in courtrooms and public service, according to a letter he submitted last week to Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto.

Barry, 84, said the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the court system and increased demand due to the county’s population boom factored into his decision.

“I’ve enjoyed my time as judge,” Barry said. “It leaves you kind of wondering what you’re going to do for sure. I don’t want to just loaf. I’ve never been a loafer.”

Barry said he would like to write a book about the history of Wilson County courts prior to the creation of General Sessions Court.

“Most people alive now don’t remember what we did before we had General Sessions Courts. I was going to look into that,” he said. “We had a totally different system before they created general sessions court.”

He said he estimated the book would take about a year to write.

Barry said he also looks forward to spending time with his wife of more than 60 years and their family, including their five grandchildren.

Barry was elected General Sessions Division II judge in 2014 to an eight-year term. Barry had previously announced he would not seek re-election in 2022.

The Wilson County Commission will elect someone to fill Barry’s seat until the 2022 election, according to Phillip Warren, Wilson County Administer of Elections.

Prior to being elected as General Sessions Division II judge, Barry served two terms as the Ward 5 representative on the Lebanon City Council. He also served as a substitute judge throughout Middle Tennessee from 1998 to 2014 after a 24-year stint as the Division I General Sessions judge from 1974 to 1998.

Barry’s legal career started while he was working at TRW in its then personnel department overseeing union dealings, company newsletter and hirings and firings. Barry also hired the first woman in the company’s shop.

Barry said he turned to law after the company offered him a promotion that would have required him to move to Greeneville.

“I had a great job with them, but that’s when I started practicing law. I didn’t start practicing law until I was 38,” said Barry, who said he passed the state BAR exam on his first try.

Barry said he won his first judgeship in 1974, just two years after he started practicing law.

“I decided, at least personally, the judge that was there then was doing all he could be doing. He was a nice fellow. I just felt like I could do it better. Back then, I guess they would call me a fair-haired boy. I didn’t have any record at all, and I had only been practicing law two years,” Barry said.

He was re-elected in 1982 and 1990 before Judge Barry Tatum beat him in 1998.

Barry replaced longtime judge Robert “Bob” Hamilton in 2014.

Barry said his political aspirations came from his work with the Lebanon Jaycees during elections.

“We’d have somebody stationed at every poll, and as soon as we got the results, we’d rush it into town. That kind of got me interested in politics to start with,” said Barry, who has also helped other candidates with their local and state races.

He is a graduate of Lebanon High School, Tennessee Tech University and the Nashville School of Law.

The Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce recognized Barry with a Life Membership in 2008.