Liberty walks across Larry Ross’ desk and begins chewing on a replica of a tree made of shiny copper wire rising from a small wooden base. Ross reaches over and removes the copper tree from Liberty’s mouth.
“I found Liberty under the floor here five years ago and it was just 5 degrees that morning,” Ross says of the cat. “We could barely coax her out from under there back then. She was just a kitten and she was only about this big,” he says holding his hands up close together. “Now it’s her house.”
Ross is sitting behind a desk in his downtown office and Liberty has stretched out in front of his laptop for a nap. The upstairs space has exposed brick walls and a painted hardwood floor that reflects the midday sunlight shining through windows spanning the wall facing the street.
Ross looks down at the ornament he’s just taken from Liberty’s mouth. “A man I sentenced to life in prison made this for me,” Ross says as he picks up a handwritten letter on his desk. “I just got a letter from him in the mail yesterday. He’s become a personal friend of mine.”
After decades of acting as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, serving as an assistant district attorney, and then General Sessions judge, Ross is now a defense attorney. Being on the other side of the room has changed his perspective.
“What’s changed me is sitting at this desk and hearing people who need my help telling me their stories,” says Ross. “It’s humbling. In fact, I just told Judge Locke yesterday that I regret some of my decisions. The harshness. Maybe I’m just mellowing with age.”
“I’m a softy now,” Ross adds. “You don’t know how many times I get it thrown up to me when I’m trying to make a deal. They say well what would Judge Ross have done and I say listen, that’s been 10 years ago! They never hesitate to let me know what Judge Ross would’ve done,” Ross laughs.
“Looking back, I’ve decided I was too tough,” Ross says. “Too stringent. I was that way as a district attorney. I was that way as a judge. I was probably too hard sometimes when I look back.”
Ross enjoys his current role as junior partner at Ross and Ross Law Firm where his wife Tami is senior partner.
“She’s the boss and she’ll tell you she is,” Ross says cheerfully. “I’m not downstairs with the boss, I’m up here by myself and I like it that way. I’ll have about 10 cases and she’ll have a hundred. I’ve had about all I want.”
Even though he still takes on clients, Ross refers to himself as retired. He generally doesn’t come into the office much earlier than noon. His pace of life has slowed considerably and it agrees with him.
“For the first time in my life I’m not having to try to make a living or having to do what somebody else wants me to do. I take time in the morning to think and reflect. I’ve launched kind of a concerted study of the Bible and I’m doing it on my own terms,” says Ross. “The way I want to do it.”
Ross considers his time helping foster children as the most rewarding time of his life. His only child is a boy he fostered and then adopted. Ross’ son is 47 years old now.
“I spent a year at the Sunny Acres Children’s home as a house parent. We had eight foster children at the time. That was as humbling an experience as anything I’ve ever done,” says Ross. “There were four cottages out at Morrison and each one held eight kids. You went out and lived and stayed there. I didn’t have any children at the time so I stayed there a year.”
“I went to church with them. Washed clothes with them. Did everything with them. We took them to Florida one year and it was the first time they’d ever been out of the state of Tennessee.”
Ross enjoys golfing and fly fishing these days. He’s busy hooking up his new home surround sound system. He doesn’t hop out of bed and rush to work on days that he does go to the office.
“Tami always tells people who ask if I’m coming in today that I might make it in by lunch,” Ross says laughing. “Then I come in at noon and take her to lunch.”
Ross and Tami have a home on the river and he enjoys watching various forms of wildlife from his covered deck in the morning.
“I’ve seen hawks, eagles, wild turkeys, coyotes, and deer. There’s everything in the world there and they’ll just come right up and graze right there in my yard.”
Ross eases back in his chair, looks around his office and smiles.
“These days I guess I just enjoy life like I never have.”