I was an English major in college and one of my professor was a lover of Southern literature, in particular the works of William Faulkner. I remember how challenging some of Faulkner’s books were to me, with his long, often interminable sentences and his dense and obscure prose. I had to work at it, and the work was usually worth it. One of Faulkner’s more famous quotes is, “The past is never dead. It is not even past.” Typical Faulkner. The meaning of this phrase was not immediately clear to me but thank goodness for a good teacher. As my professor explained to the class in his southern drawl, “Our experiences shape us and live on in us. What we remember doesn’t die.”
I remembered Faulkner’s quote when I recently attended the Bar’s memorial service for John Pollard, a longtime member of our Bar. It is the privilege of the Bar president to attend each memorial service as a small token of respect to the family and friends of members of our Bar who have passed away. You have probably noticed invitations to attend these services in the Bar Blasts you get in your inbox. It strikes me that although there are frequent mentions of them, a large segment of our Bar might not be familiar with this long tradition or have thought about its importance.
For over 90 years, our Bar in one form or another has made it part of its work to honor our deceased brother and sisters of the Bar with a formal resolution that is filed with the court and becomes part of the public record. For the last 50 years or so, our Bar has conducted formal memorial services, presided over by a Mecklenburg County judge, where family and friends can come to celebrate the life and career of a fellow member of our Bar. A lawyer who knew the deceased well gives a brief presentation on the life and legacy of the Bar member being memorialized and prepares a formal resolution to be filed with the court. Others in attendance are also encouraged to say a few words. I have attended several of these and have never failed to be moved by the experience.
On the Bar’s website you can look at the memorial resolutions for over 230 lawyers. I recently read several, including those of Bill Covington and Marcus Hickman, two of the founders of the firm where I learned to practice law, Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman. As a young lawyer, they were giants in my eyes. And as I read their memorial resolutions, I am reminded that my awe was appropriately placed. They excelled at their craft, were dedicated to their clients, loved and cared for their families and made important contributions to our community.
I am proud of this tradition and recognize that the noble deeds of those who came before us can be both examples of lives well-lived and an inspiration to do the same. Over the years, the effort to keep this tradition alive was taken on by a few dedicated members of our Bar: Judge Hugh Campbell, Ward McKeithen, Henry Pharr, Jon Buchan and George Hanna. We owe them a debt of gratitude for this work. More recently, the effort has been more formalized with a committee currently chaired by Fred Parker and Rolly Chambers. I encourage anyone who is interested in this work to volunteer to be on the Memorials Committee, agree to be a presenter and otherwise encourage and support this meaningful work or our Bar. It is important to remember.