A. Ward McKeithen - Recipient of the 2016 Ayscue Professionalism Award
At the 2015 Law & Society Luncheon, A. Ward McKeithen was awarded the 2016 Ayscue Professionalism Award. The Mecklenburg Bar Foundation's Ayscue Professionalism Award is presented each year to a present or former member(s) of the Mecklenburg County Bar to recognize exemplary professionalism. Criteria may include outstanding service through or on behalf of the Mecklenburg County Bar or the Mecklenburg Bar Foundation for the benefit of the legal community or the community at large; substantial and significant service to the community, to the Bar, or to the justice system, whether on the basis of lifetime contributions or a specific project; and/or embodiment of the traits to which all attorneys should aspire: high ethical standards, model conduct, unquestioned integrity, and consistent competence.
Ward McKeithen has always exhibited the highest standards of professionalism and excellence in his 50-year career as an attorney in North Carolina. In addition to his impressive service to the legal community, his civic endeavors have had an tremendous impact on the Mecklenburg County community.
A graduate of Davidson College, Ward received his J.D. from Duke School of Law in 1963. He then went on to active duty as 1st Lieutenant with the U.S. Army Reserve (1964-65) before joining Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson in 1965. Since that time, Ward has been generous with both his time and his talent with his colleagues, his clients and his community, including his tenure as president of the Mecklenburg County Bar in 1993-94. In addition to his service on the Bar Board, Ward also chaired the MCB Memorials Committee for eight years and served as a mentor multiple times in the MCB Silent Partners Program. Ward was also one of the earliest advocates of the Bar’s decision to build its new building in Charlotte’s Historic West End.
Outside of his professional life, Ward’s dedication to providing generous, charitable service to others is apparent in the important civic and community leadership positions he has held during his career. He has served as a member of the board of trustees of Queens College since 1974; he served as a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg board of education from 1976 to 1988, during a time of intense challenges accompanying the end of racial segregation stemming from the Swann decision; and he has served as director of the Arts and Science Council and as president and board member of the Charlotte Nature Museum. It was during his tenure on the board of the Nature Museum that the decision to build Discovery Place was made. Ward was a compelling advocate against those who thought the project too ambitious.
Ward is described by his fellow attorneys as a “lawyer’s lawyer.” He is known for inviting opposing counsel to lunch at the outset of every trial to set the groundwork for their interactions. One of his colleagues noted, “He employs his skills with the very highest and most unquestionable integrity and ethical standards. I think it would be difficult to find a lawyer who has opposed Ward in even the hardest-fought courtroom battle who does not think highly of him and respect him afterwards. The respect and friendship flows the other way as well: Ward leaves his courtroom battles in the courtroom and does what he can to establish or maintain cordial and collegial relationships with lawyers who have been his most vigorous trial opponents.”
In the words of his friends and colleagues, “Ward is an exemplary person, an exemplary friend and partner, an exemplary contributor to the community and to the Bar and an exemplary professional.” It is for these reasons and many more that we are proud to award Ward McKeithen the 2015-16 Ayscue Professionalism Award.
Past winners of the Ayscue Professionalism Award include E. Osborne Ayscue Jr., Julius L. Chambers, Russell M. Robinson, II, Joseph W. Grier Jr., Chief Justice Sarah Parker, Ray S. Farris, Peter S. Gilchrist III, Ted Fillette & Ken Schorr, Mark R. Bernstein, Robert C. "Bob" Sink and George V. Hanna III