United States Attorney William “Bill” Killian will be the Law Day speaker Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Bradley County Courthouse.
His visit is being hosted by the Bradley County Bar Association which is making the event open to the public. According to a Bar Association statement, area residents are invited “... to celebrate the benefits of living in a free society limited in its actions by the U.S. Constitution.” Killian’s topic will be “Federal Laws Under the United States Constitution.”
Killian is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee where he is responsible for representing the legal interest of the United States and prosecuting federal criminal violations throughout the district's 41 counties. The Eastern District is the largest federal district in Tennessee and serves approximately 2.6 million residents in an area extending from Johnson County in northeast Tennessee to Lincoln County in the middle of the state.
The Bradley County Bar Association press release describes Law Day as “... an opportunity to explore the movement for civil and human rights in the United States of America and the impact on promoting the ideal of equality under the law. It provides a forum for reflecting on the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and putting an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. It is as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1963, during the Proclamation’s centennial, Dr. King stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and called upon the nation to live up to the great promise of “equality for all” enshrined in the nation’s founding documents, according to the press statement.
Five decades later, the inspirational words of his “I Have a Dream” speech continue to resonate and challenge Americans to live up to the national ideal of equality under the law, the news release cites, and adds, “The legacy of the Civil Rights Movement is in the strides made against discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation.”
The press statement adds, “The promise of equality under the law made America a beacon to other nations. It is a pledge clearly set forth in the Declaration of Independence and in the opening words of the Preamble of the Constitution, ‘We the People.’ It is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the proposition to which our nation is dedicated.”
Law Day originated in 1957 when Americans envisioned a special day for celebrating the U.S. legal system. On Feb. 3, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower established Law Day by issuing a proclamation recognizing this as a day to strengthen the heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under law. Every president since then has issued an annual Law Day proclamation. In 1961, Congress designated May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.
The day is set aside as a time to reflect on the role of law in the foundation of the country and to recognize its importance for society. Law Day was implemented as a Cold War response to combat communism, which adopted International Workers Day to celebrate the growth of communism as a preferred way of life. Some countries referred to May 1 as “Red Day.”
The Bar Association press release said of Law Day, “Americans are requested to celebrate a society governed by laws and not by the whims and caprice of men or special groups. Previous Law Day themes included ‘Justice for All,’ ‘Foundations of Freedom’ and ‘Struggle for Justice.’”
Killian graduated from the University of Tennessee School of Law in 1974, after receiving a bachelor of science degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in April 1975. From 1976 through 1979, he was employed as an assistant district attorney with the 12th Judicial District in Southeast Tennessee. He returned to that position part-time from 1988 through 1990.
Killian was a sole practitioner in Jasper from 1979 until Oct. 4, 2010, when he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney. He also served as the city attorney for the town of Monteagle for a total of 21 years.