William K. Davis (’66) Justice Fund Dedicated
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NC Bar Association
June 11, 2014
Family, friends and firm members gathered at the N.C. Bar Center on Wednesday, June 11, to dedicate the William K. Davis Justice Fund. Davis, past president of the N.C. State Bar, practices with Bell, Davis & Pitt in Winston-Salem, which he formed with Frank Bell and Wrennie Pitt in 1980.
NCBA President Alan Duncan presided. Program participants included Michael Medford of the Development Committee, Jean Gordon Carter of the Endowment Committee and Executive Director Allan Head who directed the unveiling of the Justice Fund plaque.
His sons, Kearns Davis of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard in Greensboro and Ward Davis of the Charlotte office of Bell, Davis & Pitt, were the featured speakers.
Kearns Davis recalled taking a trip to the courthouse with his father when he was a child. He said he didn’t remember which courthouse or the particulars of the case, but he was nevertheless paying attention.
“We walked out after the hearing and across the street there was the little restaurant that you could find in any North Carolina county seat,” Kearns Davis said. “As we neared the restaurant, somebody walked up – a panhandler.
“Now, I know that this is a common experience for a guy in a suit downtown, but I didn’t know at that time. I was a boy visiting a grown-up world, but I was paying attention. Dad treated the man with respect, looked him in the eye, talked to him and bought him a sandwich.”
“Dad didn’t teach me how to be a lawyer,” Kearns Davis continued, “he taught me something much more important. He taught me what it meant to be a lawyer, what it means to be a lawyer, what it means to be a citizen, what it means to be a father.”
“Something we talk about a lot,” Ward Davis added, “something about which he has a very strong opinion, is what makes good lawyers. How do we find good lawyers, how do we become good lawyers, how do we make ourselves better lawyers, how do we identify good lawyers, what are the qualities that make a good lawyer?
“When I think of what Dad would say, three things come to mind. One, you have to have good judgment, because we’re counselors. That is what we get paid to do. You can’t give wise counsel without good judgment.
“Two, you have to be yourself. You have to be true to yourself and your values. You have to find your own voice; you can’t be somebody else. You can learn from others but at the core you have to be true to yourself and your values.
“And third, you have to treat everyone with dignity and respect, whether they are opposing counsel, whether they are someone you are cross-examining, whether they are your own client or the panhandler on the street, you have to treat people with dignity and respect.”
A Justice Fund is a named endowment that honors those North Carolina lawyers, past and present, whose careers have demonstrated dedication to the pursuit of justice and outstanding service to the profession and the public. One or more contributors may establish a Justice Fund to honor a colleague, family member or friend.
Lawyers designated and honored by the creators of a Justice Fund receive special recognition in the form of a permanent plaque and biographical sketch maintained at the N.C. Bar Center. One or more contributors may establish a Justice Fund to honor a colleague, family member or friend through a combined gift of $35,000.
The NCBA Foundation Endowment was established in 1987 to enable the foundation to fund programs and activities to better serve the public and the legal profession. As of June 2014, the endowment had awarded grants totaling $4.5 million for 576 projects.
The biographical sketch attached to the William K. Davis Justice Fund reads as follows:
WILLIAM K. DAVIS
Bill Davis was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, in July 1939. He is the son of James Edward Becton “Jeb” Davis, Jr., and Rebecca Kearns Davis. He has an older brother, J.E.B. Davis, III, and a younger sister, Beebe Davis Lee.
When Bill was a child, his family lived in Raleigh, Pahokee, Florida, Surry County, and Winston-Salem. He graduated from R.J. Reynolds High School in 1956, just shy of his 17th birthday, and enrolled at Davidson College. At Davidson, he lettered in track, was a member of the ROTC, and graduated with a degree in history in 1960.
After college, Bill entered business school at the University of North Carolina, from which he earned an MBA in 1961. He then joined the United States Army as an officer and paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In the fall of 1962, he was deployed to Oxford, Mississippi, to support the integration of the University of Mississippi. Less than a month later, his unit mobilized again, prepared and standing by to jump into Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bill volunteered to jump first with a small group of pathfinders, ahead of the main parachute assault, to take the place of another paratrooper who had a family. The jump was canceled when President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev reached an agreement to resolve the crisis.
Upon leaving active duty in 1963, Bill entered law school at Wake Forest University. He remained a reservist during law school, serving with a unit of the U.S. Special Forces based at Fort Bragg. He graduated from Wake Forest in 1966, passed the North Carolina bar exam, and joined the law firm of Deal, Hutchins & Minor in Winston-Salem.
Immediately upon passing the bar exam, Bill proposed to Myrtie Moon Bilbro, originally of Greenville, whom he had met during law school before her graduation from the University of North Carolina. They were married in November 1966 and will celebrate their 48th anniversary this fall. They have three children–Kearns Davis of Greensboro, Ward Davis of Charlotte, and Joanna Davis Andrews of Winston-Salem–and nine grandchildren.
In 1980, Bill and partners Frank Bell and Wrennie Pitt founded the firm of Bell, Davis & Pitt, P.A., in Winston-Salem. Bill was president of the firm for more than two decades, and it has expanded to more than 35 lawyers, including the addition of a Charlotte office in 2004. In recent years, in addition to his business litigation practice at Bell, Davis & Pitt, Bill has devoted a portion of his practice to serving as Senior Counsel in the legal department of Wake Forest University.
Bill has served his community in ways too numerous to list, but a few bear mentioning. He has served on the Boards of Directors of Youth Opportunity Homes, Young Life of Winston-Salem, the Enrichment Center, and the Winston-Salem Rotary Club. He has served as President of the Alumni Associations of both Davidson College and the Wake Forest University Law School, and he has been a member of the Davidson Board of Trustees and the Wake Forest Law School Board of Visitors. Lastly, he has been a member of the Vestry and Senior Warden of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Bill’s service to his profession has been equally extensive. He is a past President of the North Carolina State Bar, has been a member of the North Carolina Bar Association Board of Governors, and has chaired the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners. He has served as President of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, Chair of the State Bar Board of Continuing Legal Education, Chair of the Civil Justice Reform Act Advisory Group for the Middle District of North Carolina, Vice Chair of the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission, and a member of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Legal Services Corporation. He has been a member of the North Carolina Courts Commission, and he remains a Founding Member of the Chief Justice Joseph Branch Inn of Court at Wake Forest. In recognition of his service, he received the North Carolina State Bar’s John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award in 2012.
Finally, Bill has been honored with numerous awards and recognitions during his career. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Permanent Member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference, and a recipient of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys J. Robert Elster Award for Professional Excellence. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America since 1991 and in the Business North Carolina Legal Elite since 2002, including membership in the Legal Elite Hall of Fame since 2006.
Bill will celebrate his 75th birthday next month, and in September will begin his 49th year in the practice of law. His work today is guided by the same principles he took from Wake Forest in 1966, and which he continues to share through Bell Davis & Pitt and Wake Forest: integrity, honor, and commitment to his clients, his partners, his family, and his community.
See more at NC Bar Association.