John E. Owings


John Owings has been practicing law in Knoxville and Knox County for well over a quarter century. As a partner with Owings, Wilson & Coleman, John provides reliable traditional legal services and maintains practice concentrations in business and corporate law, employment and labor law, personal injury, municipal, governmental and public utilities law, mediation and civil litigation, including defending individual police officers, officials, cities and counties in civil rights actions. John is the current Secretary-Treasurer of the Tennessee County Attorney’s Association.
John graduated cum laude from Roane State Community College with an A.S. degree in Pre-Law in 1983. He graduated with High Honors from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a B.A. degree in 1985 and from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1988. For two years while in law school, John was employed as an investigator for the Tennessee Human Rights Commission investigating and analyzing complaints, making findings, and writing formal opinions for the Commission related to all forms of employment discrimination.

For his first two years after law school, 1988-1990, John was employed as the first Pro Se Law Clerk and Staff Attorney for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. As the Pro Se Law Clerk and Staff Attorney, John examined all State of Tennessee and Federal prisoner petitions and complaints, including civil rights complaints, state habeas corpus petitions, and motions to vacate sentences, reviewed all pleadings in prisoner cases, determined the issues involved, the basis for relief from the federal court, performed substantive legal research, managed a case load of over 400 cases, and drafted appropriate dispositive and non-dispositive orders and opinions for the approval of the four federal district court judges – Judges James H. Jarvis, II, R. Leon Jordan, R. Allan Edgar and Thomas G. Hull. John also performed administrative legal duties for the Federal Court Clerk.

Between 1990 and 2006, John was the Chief Deputy Law Director for Knox County, Tennessee. During that time, John represented, defended, advised and served as in-house counsel for the entity of Knox County and all of its elected officials, including the Knox County Commission, County Mayor, County Clerk, Register of Deeds, Property Assessor, Sheriff, General Sessions Court Judges, Juvenile Court Judge and Referees, Knox County Schools and Board of Education, and Knox County’s directors, officers, Clerks of Court and employees in all civil matters and cases, including civil rights, education, employment, Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, contract claims and numerous other causes of action and prosecuted Knox County Code violations.

On September 1, 2006, John was elected by the Commission of Knox County to serve the remainder of his predecessor’s four year term of office – through August 31, 2008. The Knox County Law Director is an elected official of Knox County that is charged with executing and administering all of the legal affairs of the County, including litigation, drafting of contracts or other documents, instruments and papers, the investigation of titles, and to advise and counsel County officials and the Commission on all legal matters affecting their respective offices. As the Knox County Law Director, John had a staff of seventeen, including seven attorneys, a certified paralegal, and an investigator. As the Chief Deputy and the Law Director for Knox County, John represented Knox County in countless civil rights and personal injury lawsuits with successful jury verdicts and trial court decisions in the State of Tennessee and Federal Court, the Tennessee Appellate Courts and the Federal Appellate Court (Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals), and the Tennessee Supreme Court. John joined the firm in September, 2008.

Between 1976 and 1982, John was a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 917. He served as an apprentice crane operator in a three year apprenticeship program for TVA and the International Union of Operating Engineers. He graduated and became a journeyman crane operator with full membership in the Union. Over the next four years, John operated cranes as a journeyman crane operator at the Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant in Surgoinsville, Tennessee and in Dallas, Texas, before going back to school and completing his degrees.

John is married to Margaret “Meg” Cameron, a south Knoxville native and graduate of Doyle High School and the University of Tennessee. John and Meg are members of South Harriman Baptist Church.

Two sons, Casey, a Navy veteran who served two tours in the Middle East (Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom) aboard aircraft carriers as an F-14 aircraft mechanic and plane captain, and Barrett, a member of the Tennessee Air National Guard, 134th Air Refueling Wing. John is a former Little League Coach, a weekly volunteer with Knoxville Knox County CAC Mobile Meals, a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Remote Area Medical Corps, a certified scuba diver, and has been a private pilot since 1982. He is a Vice-Chair of the Knox County Republican Party, Chair of the Farragut South Precinct, has served on the Knox County Republican Executive Committee since 1992 and has been the Parliamentarian for the GOP reorganizations and special called meetings.

John’s family roots are deeply imbedded in Tennessee history as his ancestors have lived in East Tennessee since 1793, prior to Tennessee becoming a State. His family is a “First Family of Tennessee.” One of his ancestors, Samuel Sumpter Owings, served under General Andrew Jackson in the war of 1812. John’s ancestors also helped establish the first Christian Church West of the Emory River in East Tennessee. The church, known as the Post Oak Springs Christian Church, near Rockwood, is the oldest Christian Church in the State of Tennessee.

P: (865) 522-2717
F: (865) 522-7929


University of Tennessee – J.D., 1988
University of Tennessee – B.A., 1985
Roane State Community College – A.S., 1983

Bar Admissions

Tennessee, 1988
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, 1989
U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, 1991
U.S. Supreme Court, 1992


Knoxville Bar Association, Past Chair of Gov’t Lawyers Section
Roane County Bar Association
Blount County Bar Association
Tennessee Bar Association
American Bar Association
Tennessee County Attorney’s Association, President 2008-2009, Secretary-Treasurer 2009-Present
Tennessee School Boards Association
Hamilton Burnett Inns of Court, Emeritus Member
Tennessee Society of Sons of the Revolution, direct descendent of
Capt. William Sumpter, a patriot of the Revolutionary War and brother of Gen. Thomas Sumpter, the “Gamecock of the Carolinas”

Certified Federal and State Court Mediator since 1995