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Firm History

A look back in time

Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP traces its roots back more than 200 years to 1812, when William Christian Bullitt opened his law practice.  Wyatt has changed significantly since those frontier days, and now is a full-service regional law firm with offices in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky; New Albany, Indiana; and Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.  Some of its accomplishments, include:

  • Taking the lead on “bet-the-company” litigation for a Fortune 500 company.
  • Closing a billion-dollar transaction for one of the country’s largest ESOP’s.
  • Serving as counsel to some of the region’s landmark real estate developments, ranging from GE Appliance Park to the FedEx Forum.
  • Representing a consortium of business people known as the “Louisville Sponsoring Group” that helped launch the professional boxing career of “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, after his gold medal victory in the 1960 Olympics. (Click here to view Gordon B. Davidson's biography.)

The current generation of the Firm was formed through the mergers of the practices of Tarrant, Combs & Bullitt and Wyatt, Grafton & Sloss in 1980; Orbison, O’Connor, MacGregor & Mattox in 1984; Brown, Sledd & McCann in 1985; Gilbert & Milom in 1989; and McDonnell Dyer in 1995.  Background on each of these predecessor firms can be found below.

Louisville
Tarrant, Combs & Bullitt began its history in 1812 with the founding of the Bullitt Firm.  One of his grandchildren, William Marshall Bullitt, the former solicitor general of the United States, practiced with our Firm from 1895-1957.  The presiding partners in the Firm at the time of its merger with the Wyatt firm were John E. Tarrant and former Governor Bert T. Combs.  Governor Combs was also a former United States circuit judge, and justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court.  

Wyatt, Grafton & Sloss was founded in 1947 as Wyatt & Grafton.  The presiding partners in the Firm were Arthur W. Grafton, Sr. and Wilson W. Wyatt, a former mayor of Louisville who served in President Truman’s cabinet, as presidential emissary under President Kennedy, and as lieutenant governor of Kentucky.

New Albany
Orbison, O’Connor, MacGregor & Mattox was founded in 1879 as Jewett & Jewett.  The presiding partner in the Firm when it merged with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs was Telford B. Orbison, a past president of the Indiana State Bar Association.

Lexington
Brown, Sledd & McCann was founded in 1952 as McCann, Sledd, & McCann.  In the intervening years, it practiced under the name of Brown, Sledd & McCann, P.S.C.  The presiding officers of the Firm when it merged with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs were William H. McCann and Herbert D. Sledd, a past president of the Kentucky Bar Association and secretary of the American Bar Association.

Nashville
Gilbert & Milom was founded in 1951 as Barksdale, Hudgins and Osborne, and evolved into Gilbert & Milom in 1983.  The presiding partners in the Firm when it merged with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs were Harris A. Gilbert and Michael W. Milom.

Memphis
The Memphis McDonnell Dyer merger in October, 1995 made Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP the largest firm operating in the Kentucky-Indiana-Tennessee region.  This expansion into West Tennessee was part of the Firm’s plan to become a statewide presence in Tennessee and a more diverse regional law firm.