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Attorney Donna Simpson

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with many people in the Upper Cumberland area. I have both enjoyed my work with them and enjoyed getting to know more about life from each one of them.

I grew up in Sparta, TN. My father brought livestock markets to farmers in this area, and my mother reared a family of six while keeping books for the family business. My parents taught me the values of hard work, respect for everyone, living in and trying to improve your community and the importance of having people say your word is as good as a written contract. My experience working with my family in the livestock business has helped me have a better understanding of the lives and work of the rural people of this area.

In my early years of practice, I worked with low-income clients at Rural Legal Services of Tennessee (now Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands). There I learned the importance of working with groups of people to achieve common goals. I later worked in partnership with skilled attorneys, Ernie Onks, Kathy Austin, and Mike O'Mara, who helped me hone my legal skills. My clients have each taught me valuable life lessons.

Family is important to me. My family relies on each other for help and support – sharing with each other what is most important to each one of us. My daughters, Carrie Massa and Erica Scott, along with Jodi Preis, now work as legal assistants in my law practice. I often call on my son, Ethan Massa, and my children's father, John Massa, for questions I have about appraisals. My husband, Steve Chapman, guides me in areas of office management. My brothers and sisters are always available for valuable counsel. My close family experience has helped me work with and empathize with the needs of families I meet in my practice.

The Upper Cumberland is an area not only where I grew up but also chose to return to and stay in after my years of education. I believe it is important to give back to the community that has given so much to me. Through the years, I have volunteered in my church community, the arts community, youth sports organizations, political organizations, and environmental groups.

I am fortunate to live in a place with the beauty of the farmland, lakes, and mountains of the Upper Cumberlands and to have the full and abundant life my family, friends, work and community has provided.

Professional Experience:

  • Private law practice, Cookeville, TN 1982-present
  • Rural Legal Services of Tennessee, Cookeville, TN 1979-1981


  • Supreme Court of Tennessee, 1979
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 1985
  • United States District Court – Eastern District of Tennessee, 1981
  • United States District Court – Middle District of Tennessee, 1981
  • Supreme Court of the United States, October 11, 2017


  • J.D., University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 1978
  • B.A., University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Psychology, 1973


  • Chair, Social Security Section of the Tennessee Bar Association (2016-2017)
  • Chair-Elect, Disability Section of the American Association for Justice (2018-2019)
  • Past President, Putnam County Bar Association
  • Board of Professional Responsibility for the Supreme Court of Tennessee, 1992-1998


  • Fellow, Tennessee Bar Foundation & American Bar Foundation