Sue Kerr Hicks

Sue Kerr Hicks, (1895-1980)

Sue Kerr Hicks – 1920

Was an American jurist who practiced law and served as a circuit court judge in the state of Tennessee. He is best known for his role as a co-instigator and prosecutor in the 1925 trial of John T. Scopes, a Dayton, Tennessee teacher accused of teaching the Theory of Evolution in violation of Tennessee state law. Hicks may have also been the inspiration for the Shel Silverstein song “A Boy Named Sue,” which was popularized by Johnny Cash in 1969.

Hicks was brought into the world in Madisonville, Tennessee on December 12, 1895. He was the youngest of Charles Wesley and Susanna Coltharp Hicks. Hicks was named “Sue” after his mom, who passed soon after birth. Charles Wesley Hicks, Sue’s dad, was a noticeable Madisonville legal advisor, and Wesley J. Hicks, Sue’s great-uncle, was the author of a manual on Tennessee Chancery law practice and assumed a vital part in getting claims excused against previous Confederate officials in the Knoxville region after the American Civil War. Hicks prepared at Hiwassee College and the University of Kentucky prior to joining his more seasoned sibling, Herbert, in Dayton, where Herbert had been designated acting Rhea County lawyer. Hicks married Reba Sue Bradley on March 24, 1939, and never had any children.

John Scopes

In Dayton, the Hicks siblings were regulars at the F.E. Robinson Drugstore, where the town’s experts frequently accumulated to mingle and talk about issues of the day. In May 1925, the Hicks siblings and different regulars became engaged with a conversation over an American Civil Liberties Union promotion looking for a test to the Butler Act, a state law recently enacted stopping the teaching of the Theory of Evolution. Understanding the exposure such a case would bring to Rhea County, the gathering — who ultimately would become known as the “drugstore conspirators” — chose to design a case that would test the lawfulness of the Butler Act. The gathering enlisted local physics instructor John T. Scopes — a companion of Sue’s — to confess to teaching the Theory of Evolution. One of the plotters, George Rappleyea, swore out a warrant for Scopes’ capture on May 5th, and charges were documented the next day.

Clarence Darrow speaking at the Scopes Monkey Trial, which had been moved outdoors because of the heat.

Sue served as an individual of the Scopes Trial prosecution team, in spite of the fact that his job was eclipsed by the presence of William Jennings Bryan, a lobbyist and previous presidential candidate who had been welcomed to join the group as a special prosecutor. While the preliminary was fruitful in carrying exposure to Rhea County, a significant part of the exposure was negative and depicted nearby inhabitants as backward and clueless. In spite of the fact that Scopes was indicted — as had been arranged — the “test case” reached a conclusion in 1927, when the Tennessee Supreme Court governed the Butler Act constitutional, yet toppled Scopes’ conviction on a technicality. This kept the case out of the government court and finished any opportunity of it continuing to the United States Supreme Court, which the drugstore conspirators had initially trusted. Hicks later composed the accompanying about his perspectives on the trial:

We cannot speak other than with commendation as to the conduct of Judge Raulston in the Scopes Case. It was a very trying case. Religious fanatics, reds, and all manner of rabble were assembled at this trial, and at times the excitement of the crowd became almost a frenzy, and almost beyond the control of the small number of officers which we had at our disposal. Beside the attorneys for the defense did every thing they could to provoke the Court and to get on the front pages of the newspapers as much as they could, so the situation was very hard to handle.

Between the range of 1936 and 1958, Hicks filled in as a state circuit court judge and kept on serving in a reserve status until the 1970s. He presided in excess of 800 homicide cases, and acquired a standing for being “fair” and “tough”. During the mid-1960s, Hicks was president of the Fort Loudoun Association and drove the early resistance to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s arrangements to fabricate Tellico Dam at the mouth of the Little Tennessee River. Hicks passed on June 27, 1980, in Sweetwater, Tennessee. He is buried at Haven Hill Memorial Gardens in Madisonville. The Sue K. Hicks Papers, which comprise essentially of Hicks’ correspondence in regards to the Scopes Trial and later lawful cases, are on file at the University of Tennessee Special Collections Library in Knoxville.

Find A Grave Memorial

Motivation for “A Boy Named Sue”

Hicks’ strangely ladylike first name may have enlivened the song, “A Boy Named Sue”, which Johnny Cash originally performed in 1969. The song’s creator, Shel Silverstein, had gone to a legal meeting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee—at which Hicks was a speaker—and clearly got the thought for the tune title subsequent to hearing Hicks presented. While Cash said he was uninformed that Silverstein had any one individual as a top priority when he composed the song, he did send Hicks two records and two signed pictures with the inscription, “To Sue, how do you do?”

While his name may have propelled the song’s title, Hicks called attention to that the person in the tune’s verses—who looks for retribution against his dad after a long period of prodding—was not in any way similar to his own life. Hicks’ dad named him after his mother, who had passed on from complications with Hicks’ birth, instead of, as the tune recommends, to make him “strong”. Hicks additionally professed to have consistently had an awareness of what’s actually funny about his name and didn’t think of it as a wellspring of disparagement. In 1970, Hicks noted: “It is an irony of fate that I have tried over 800 murder cases and thousands of others, but the most publicity has been from the name ‘Sue’ and from the evolution trial. … I was named Sue for my mother, who died after childbirth.”



Relationship: great-uncle’s son-in-law

Mamie Sue Bradley Best


Luke Calloway Bradley


Benjamin Bradley

elder brother

Charlie C Bradley


Reba Sue Bradley Hicks


Sue Kerr Hicks

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