By Judge Marshall L. Davidson, Nashville
Speak with Judge David F. Hensley for long, and he might just tell you that he is “from the coal fields of Kentucky and had a public education.”
Do not be fooled.
You also might notice his distinctive southern drawl.
Do not be fooled by that, either. Judge Hensley is “disarmingly bright and witty” says fellow Appeals Board Judge Tim Conner.
Prior to his appointment as one of the three inaugural appeals judges stemming from the Reform Act of 2013, Judge Hensley practiced law in Chattanooga for more than 30 years in the areas of estates, construction law, insurance fraud and, of course, workers’ compensation.
He and his wife of thirty-five years, Dianne, have recently added two grandchildren to their growing family of two daughters and now four grandchildren.
But here is where this story takes an interesting, and perhaps surprising, turn.
Judge Hensley has an intense passion for sailboat racing. In fact, he and Dianne’s first date was a sailboat race. Dianne had no idea what to expect or do, as Judge Hensley did not inform her they were going to be in a competitive sailing event. Instead, he merely asked if she wanted to “go sailing.” And sailing they went ̶ in a race.
It was only a matter of time before Judge Hensley and Dianne were sailboat racing throughout the eastern United States. In one race in particularly high winds, Dianne fell off the boat. Instead of stopping to pluck her from the water, Judge Hensley yelled for her to swim to the shore, where eventually he retrieved her.
Competitive sailing was not enough to satisfy Judge Hensley’s adventuresome spirit, so he immersed himself in martial arts with his two daughters. After years of training and tournament competition, all three received their black belts.
Then, Judge Hensley’s most ambitious competitive exploit began: water skiing.
Loving the water as he does, and looking for another adventure to share with his girls, the trio participated in numerous ski schools and clinics throughout the southeast. It wasn’t long before all three were competing nationally. One of the girls, Caroline, won numerous national and world titles, with Judge Hensley as her coach.
The Hensley family attended ski events around the world, including in South America, Europe and Russia. One of Judge Hensley’s favorite competitions was the 2009 World Games in Taiwan, where he served as coach and manager for the U.S. Water Ski Federation. He was a proud coach and father when Caroline won a gold medal in slalom and bronze in overall.
Though he is now in his sixties, Judge Hensley still skis regularly. And, he still races sailboats, though he has learned that it is best to quell his competitive spirit and retrieve his wife from the water the instant that she falls overboard.
Since his daughters are now married and have kids of their own, Judge Hensley’s focus is turning to the new generation in the family. He is teaching his two oldest grandchildren to ski. He had them upright behind the boat when they were just four years old.
Most recently, Judge Hensley has taken up beekeeping. Like a child watching fish in an aquarium, he enjoys watching the bees and is looking forward to harvesting the honey.
One more thing about Judge Hensley: The Governor just reappointed him for a term of six years on the Appeals Board.
Congratulations, Judge Hensley!