While attending East Tennessee State Teacher's College, Judge Garland served as president of the student body and was captain of the football team. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with honors and taught at the law school for four years. He then entered private practice in Erwin with his brother, Willard. In 1960, he was elected judge of the First General Sessions Court of Unicoi County, and in 1966 was elected to serve Unicoi, Washington, Carter, and Johnson counties as circuit court judge. He was selected in 1979 to sit for a term as a special justice for the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Division, in Knoxville. He returned to private practice and was an active civic leader, serving both his community and state. A supporter of his alma mater, he served as chairman of the ETSU Foundation's Planned Gifts Committee and was a member of the Committee of 1000.