Curtis L. Collier, who rose from humble beginnings in the poverty-ridden Mississippi Delta region of rural Arkansas during the 1950s era of segregation to become the first and only black U.S. district judge in eastern Tennessee, will move into semi-retirement in October.

Collier sent a letter to President Barack Obama last week announcing his senior status to take effect on his 65th birthday. In doing so, the judge opened up the prestigious and highly sought-after position to what will likely be a lengthy process involving Democratic congressmen, Tennessee's Republican U.S. senators and the White House.

Potential hopefuls for the position already are being mentioned.

Collier and U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice hold the top judicial positions in Hamilton County, presidential lifetime appointments confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Collier is one of only six federal judges who have lived in Chattanooga while serving here since the local seat was created in 1939. He has served for nearly 20 years.

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