Raymond Tanksley Jr., Spokane’s jovial “People’s Court” judge, died Saturday after losing his battle with cancer of the esophagus.
He was 63.
The nine-year District Court judge’s death came as a surprise to many in the courthouse. Some didn’t know he had been hospitalized.
Friends said he recently slipped into a coma at Deaconess Medical Center after undergoing surgery. His death came after the family decided to remove life-support systems.
Tanksley was admired for his courteous, pleasant demeanor and his patience in presiding over small claims court, where citizens represent themselves.
“He was a true gentleman in court,” said Spokane attorney Paul Wasson. “What he really had was a love of the law. He just loved the process.”
A Spokane native, Tanksley graduated from Gonzaga Prep in 1949. He received his law degree from Gonzaga University.
He was a prominent lawyer with 28 years of experience in private practice when county commissioners appointed him to the bench in November 1985. He ran unopposed for a fourth, two-year term last fall.
Tanksley, a conservative Republican, twice ran for political office in the 1960s.
He was narrowly defeated by George Kain in the 1964 race for county prosecutor. Four years later, he set his sights on Tom Foley’s congressional seat but didn’t make it past the GOP primary.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Commissioners will appoint a successor, with the seat being up for grabs in the next general election.
A long list of applicants is expected and could include District Court Commissioner Vance Peterson, Assistant Public Defender Scott Mason and Clark Colwell, Spokane County’s former chief criminal deputy prosecutor.