John Overton (judge)

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John Overton
Tennessee Supreme Court Judge
In office
Preceded byAndrew Jackson
Succeeded byRobert Whyte
Personal details
Born(1766-04-09)April 9, 1766
Louisa County, Virginia
DiedApril 12, 1833(1833-04-12) (aged 67)
Nashville, Tennessee
SpouseMary McConnell White[1][2][3]
ProfessionJudge, lawyer, banker, slave trader

John Overton (April 9, 1766 – April 12, 1833) was an American planter, advisor of Andrew Jackson, a judge at the Tennessee Supreme Court, a banker and political leader.

Early life and education[edit]

Overton was born on April 9, 1766, in Louisa County, Virginia. His parents were James Overton and Mary Waller; his father was a great-grandson of Robert Overton, the Parliamentarian military commander during the English Civil War (and friend of Marvell and Milton).


In 1787, he began his law career and moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1789, to practice law at the Davidson County court. He was elected to succeed his friend Andrew Jackson as a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1804, where he served as a judge until 1810. His elder brother Thomas Overton served as Jackson's second in his duel with Charles Dickinson. In 1819, he founded Memphis, Tennessee on land he owned with Andrew Jackson and James Winchester.[1][4]

He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1820.[5]

Overton engaged in the slave trade and became one of the wealthiest men in Tennessee.[6] Emily Berry was sold by Overton in Memphis. Her children Mary, Martha, Billy and Minerva were looking for her years later.[7]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Mary McConnell White, the daughter of Knoxville founder, James White.[3] He built Greenlevel in Collierville, Tennessee, although he continued to live at Travellers Rest in Nashville.[8]

Later life and death[edit]

He died April 12, 1833, at Travellers Rest, his Nashville home.


Travelers Rest, his plantation home in Nashville

The nearby John Overton Comprehensive High School, located just across the railroad tracks that abut the property, is named in his honor.

Overton Park in midtown of Memphis was named after John Overton.

The Overton Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons on the historic courthouse square in Rogersville, Tennessee was named after John Overton and is the oldest continuously operating Masonic lodge in the state of Tennessee, and has been operating from the same building since circa 1840, and is a contributing property to the Rogersville Historic District.

Living direct descendants include the Overton family in Nashville, who live very close to Travelers Rest. Perkins Baxter Overton grew up playing on the Travelers Rest grounds and is the great-great-great-grandson of Judge John. His son Thomas Perkins Overton also has a son named John Overton.

Overton descendant as well, was American geologist William R. Dickinson.


  1. ^ a b "TN Encyclopedia: John Overton". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Archived from the original on 2008-12-27. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  2. ^ "John Overton". Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  3. ^ a b Samuel G. Heiskell, Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History (Nashville: Ambrose Publishing Company, 1918), p. 53.
  4. ^ "Memphis History and Facts". Memphis Public Library. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  5. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  6. ^ "John Overton | Tennessee Encyclopedia". Tennessee Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-05-14.
  7. ^ The Southwestern Christian Advocate. New Orleans, LA. October 1, 1885.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Greenlevel". National Park Service. Retrieved July 21, 2018. With accompanying pictures

External links[edit]