One of Knoxville’s most renown attorneys has died. Bernard E. “Bernie” Bernstein practiced law here for 54 years. He passed away on May 19, 2023, at age 92.
The funeral will be today (5/22/23) at 2 p.m. at Rose Mann Chapel with Rabbi Lynn Liberman officiating. The service will be streamed live on the funeral home’s Facebook page (facebook.com/RoseMannHeritage).
He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Barbara Winick Bernstein; daughter Barri Bernstein of Nashville; son Mark Bernstein (Tanya) and adored grandchildren Rachel, Benjamin and Arielle, all of San Francisco; his sister Frieda Ostrowsky of Millburn, New Jersey. His full obituary is here.
Career highlights include graduation from the Warton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Tennessee College of Law. He served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.
He founded the law firm now known as Bernstein, Stair and McAdams. He retired in 2014 but kept an office there. Although he handled some criminal cases early in his career, he is best known for representing businesses. He was counsel for the developer of West Town Mall, Clayton Homes, Proffitt’s Department Store and Whittle Communications. He served on and chaired the board of directors of the UT Medical Center.
He argued and won the landmark Baker v Carr case in which the U.S. Supreme Court established one person, one vote, which led to redistricting across the country.
In 1988, at the request of Mayor Victor Ashe, he chaired an advisory review board (called the Bernstein Commission) to improve relations between Knoxville residents and the Knoxville Police Department. This resulted in the establishment of the Police Advisory & Review Committee (PARC). He was a founder of the Legal Aid Clinic at the UT College of Law and of the Knoxville Urban League.
His family said donations in Bernie’s memory may be made to three organizations close to his heart, Legal Aid of East Tennessee (laet.org), The University of Tennessee Medical Center (utmedicalcenter.org), or Heska Amuna Synagogue (heskaamuna.org).