Craft, Lewellen Honored With Dunavant Awards

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft and Collierville town administrator James Lewellen are the 2014 recipients of the Dunavant Public Servant Awards, selected by the family of the late Probate Court Clerk Bobby Dunavant and the Rotary Club of Memphis East.



Lewellen and Craft will be honored at an April 21 awards luncheon at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, with a symposium on public service scheduled for that same day at the university.

The awards are sponsored by The Daily News and the Rotary Club of Memphis East and are based on nominations from the public based on attributes of public service exemplified by Dunavant’s career as both an appointed public official and an elected public official.

This is the 11th year of the awards.

Craft has been a judge since 1994, when he was appointed to the bench. He has since been re-elected three times, including in a special election that was the county’s lone judicial election using a partisan primary. Both local political parties later rejected the use of primaries in judicial elections.

Craft presides over what’s known as a “vertical prosecution court” dealing with “major violators and career felony offenders.” The principle behind such vertical courts is to use the same prosecutors and same judge for consistency in handling cases.

Lewellen has been town administrator for Collierville since 1995. In those years, the city has grown residentially and in its municipal infrastructure, and its economic development environment has evolved to mix businesses in the town with retail trade, generating sales tax revenue that is a major factor in delivering government services.

Past recipients of the award will be present at the luncheon, which will include a keynote speech by U.S. Sen. and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander.