Monday morning, for the first time in 25 years, Mike Dunavant woke up unemployed.
For the last 25 years he’s been a prosecutor, serving 11 years as the 25th Judicial District Attorney General and the last four as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.
“I’m sad to be leaving,” he said in an interview with The Leader last week.
The list of his accomplishments while serving as the U.S. Attorney is several pages long. There were many operations and initiatives he was proud to have carried out and many convictions he believes are just.
“Speaking the macro sense, in the last four years here I’m most proud of the increased productivity and the fact that I intentionally made our office more full service.”
What he means is if someone violated a federal law, and he had proof beyond a reasonable doubt, he did not ignore.
“And that’s everything, from the Armed Career Criminal Act to the Migratory Bird Act, if it was a violation of law, which I swore to faithfully execute, I wanted to be full service and we would accept and take that case.”
In 2018 and 2019 he set the record for most violent crime and most firearms cases prosecuted since 2004.
“I did that because obviously violent crime is big problem in West Tennessee. I think that made a big difference.””
Dunavant was also the first U.S. Attorney in 25 years who was not from Memphis and he understands the needs of law enforcement agencies in rural counties.
“Not just Memphis, not just Jackson, there are 22 counties and I happen to be mindful of that because I represented five of them as district attorney. They’re often left out or overlooked with federal prosecution. Federal law applies in all 22 counties in West Tennessee … from Lake County to Savannah, from Brighton to Paris and everywhere in between.”
Though he now lives in Atoka, Dunavant grew up in Ripley and began his career in Lauderdale County. Meeting the needs of rural communities from the relationships he had with people all over the region as the district attorney, so this nothing new for him.
“It was the top of his mind,” he said. “Tipton County is a lot safer now. And not just Tipton County, all of the counties.”
He was appointed to the position by President Donald Trump and was confirmed in 2017. Since then he’s prosecuted hundreds of cases and managed his office during a global pandemic, a summer of civil unrest, a once-in-a-generation snowstorm – and that’s just been the last year.
When new presidents are inaugurated there is usually a changing of the guard and most other U.S. attorneys across the country resigned in January. He wanted to stay on and did until the Biden administration asked for resignations.
He’s spent the last week speaking to the media, giving interviews about his work over the past four years and preparing for what lies ahead.
And what that may be isn’t quite settled. His last official day was Feb. 28 and in the near future his son will graduate from high school and leave for college, ending another chapter in his life.
Did he ever imagine rising through the ranks and becoming the U.S. Attorney? No.
“Who could have imagined it? I was just some kid from Ripley …”