BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Lloyd Elkins, April 8, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Lloyd Elkins, April 8, 2002
Date:
April 8, 2002
Description:
Abstract Mr. Elkins, A Wilmington Attorney grew-up in Bladenboro NC. After high school he went into the Navy and served in the Pacific. Upon returning he persued an education in law at UNC-CH. He came to Wilmington to parnter with Emmett Bellamy and from there went into a solo practice, primarily estates, will and real estate. His memories recall a number of Wilmington attorneys, the local bar association as well as specifics to the field.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Elkins, Lloyd Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Haas, Michael Date of Interview:  4/8/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length:  120 minutes

 

We are here today. Today is April 8, 2002. We’re interviewing Lloyd Elkins, did I get that right, right pronunciation, no Southern accent there. I’m Sherman Hayes, university librarian and Mike Haas, lawyer extraordinaire is here as an extra interviewer.

Elkins: Are you a lawyer?

Haas: I am, sir. I’m a retired Army JAG and I went to law school in Pennsylvania and I’m an attorney in Virginia and Pennsylvania, but I live in North Carolina now.

Elkins: Where were you active, all over?

Haas: All over, mostly in Germany, three years in Germany and also in Virginia and I was the senior attorney for the Army at Fort Hamilton in New York City for three years. That was pretty interesting.

Elkins: That’s up on the Hudson, isn’t it?

Haas: Well it’s right at, actually it’s at the Narrows in the New York harbor so it’s just as you’re sailing into New York City and I was also the General Counsel at the Air Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C. Got around.

Hayes: Military stuff. But anyway, we’re interviewing Lloyd today as part of our history of Wilmington and lawyers in particular. Before we get into the Wilmington component, we wondered if you could just tell us a little bit about where you grew up and started and so forth, some perspective for the listener about your own early life.

Elkins: Well, I consider my home to be Bladenboro, North Carolina, which is about 60 miles west straight towards Charlotte. I was actually born in Rochester. My mother, however, was from Bladenboro and my father was from Porterville, which is a little railroad stop at that time. The train doesn’t stop there anymore, about 8 miles this side of Clarkton. So daddy went up to, daddy got a job in Rochester and I was born there.

Hayes: Rochester, North Carolina?

Elkins: Rochester, New York.

Hayes: Oh way up north, wow.

Elkins: I was born there. I like to say that it was in the North Carolina Embassy. When I was about four, the Depression came along. Daddy lost his job and we moved back and lived in Porterville for about a year in a little house that my grandfather owned which was about as far from here to across the street, about 100 feet from the railroad. So every night the train would come by and the whistles. I spent a year there and I remember those strange whistles very well.

Then Daddy got an opportunity, decided that perhaps he could make a living in Bladenboro and we moved there and that’s where I grew up.

Hayes: Now is that in Bladen County? Which county is that?

Elkins: Yes.

Hayes: Pretty rural area anyway, right? Other than Elizabethtown. Elizabethtown is about the only…

Elkins: Elizabethtown is the county seat. Bladenboro is the home of Bladenboro Cotton Mills which were owned by the Bridgers. You might have heard of them. They were the local aristocracy and they owned the cotton mills and there was a banker and a doctor and the postmaster and the postmaster was a good job during the Depression, probably better than any of the others. And they were all Bridgers.

Hayes: So you went to public schools there?

Elkins: Yes.

Hayes: And finished, was it consolidated at that time?

Elkins: That was the largest consolidated school in North Carolina at that time and yes, I finished high school there. I jumped a couple of grades because I had learned to read primarily very early and so I began school more or less in the third grade and finished, which was a very bad idea by the way. But anyway I finished two years young and then Momma made me take another year of high school, you know, just random subjects. In those days it was very informal so I was able to go back to school.

Hayes: Even though you finished?

Elkins: Yes, took a lot…took typing which was a very good thing, very useful and dramatics we called it then, took dramatics.

Hayes: Both have served you in your law profession, right?

Elkins: That’s right and then went off to the Navy, two to three years in the Navy, Guam and the Pacific. Then I went to law school in Carolina and from there to Wilmington in 1951, when I began practicing as an associate of Emmett Bellamy. Following his death, I practiced with a partner, my old law school roommate for about a year, and then another partner, Robert Caulder, who’s still here and he’s still active for several years and since then, I’ve been a sole practitioner.

Hayes: Let’s go back to coming out of the Navy, why law? You didn't have an undergraduate at that point. You hadn’t started college and you went right from high school…

Elkins: Well my father was a lawyer, but that was more of a coincidence because he was not in the county seat. He was in Bladenboro. The county seat was in Elizabethtown so I had no experience at all with courts. The first time I ever was in a courtroom is when I was in Chapel Hill in law school, but the reason I went is that my roommate in Campbell College before we both went off to the Navy, wanted to go to law school and I had this GI Bill and I did not want to go out into the world. I’d already had three years of college. So he wanted to go to law school and I said great, I’ll go too.

Hayes: So before the war, you had started at Campbell College then?

Elkins: That was a two-year college then, I finished that and I spent one year at Duke.

Hayes: And all of that transferred. It wasn’t like sometimes now they…everything doesn’t always….

Elkins: No, in those days, you could take a combined degree, three years of college and three years of law school and so my three years of college transferred and I went to law school.

Hayes: Excellent, so you went right from the military right into law school.

Elkins: Right.

Hayes: Was that a shock of sorts? I mean, being on a ship?

Elkins: No, no, I loved it. It was great! It was a happy three years.

Hayes: Well that’s good. Well tell us a little bit about that. I mean you went to Chapel Hill. Was that small, large, how was that at that time as far as a law school went?

Elkins: This is my wife, Tina, whom I met while I was in law school and successfully wooed after quite an effort.

Hayes: You sure you don’t want to join us Tina?

MRS. ELKINS: I may have to correct him.

Elkins: And so she and I are still together, still partners. No, actually in the Navy, I was not on a ship. I was stationed on Guam, Naval Air Transport Service, part of the flying wing of the Navy. I was ground crew, I was not an officer. And so college was just wonderful, happiest three years of my life, law school. I was good at books; I’ve always been good at books. Not a whole lot of practical common sense, but good with books (laughter). So law school was easy.

Hayes: Well tell us what would be a typical class like back then? This would have been about ’47, ’46 even?

Elkins: No, let’s see, I went into the Navy young so after the war was over I had to serve two more years [Minor Cruise], and I got out in ’48 and went directly to school, graduated in ’51.

Hayes: So you in quite some time in the Navy then.

Elkins: Three years.

Hayes: You didn't consider staying in as an option?

Elkins: No, no I was an officer when I left the Navy, but I didn't want to do that.

Hayes: So ’48, and most of your classmates were in the same situation you were? Is that what you would say, a lot of returning veterans.

Elkins: Yes, that is certainly true. The class was a mix. The ones who had been in the military and were just coming back were as a group considerably more mature than those who had not gone to the military. They were three or four years younger and had just gone directly to law school. But it was not a large class and it really was a pretty collegial group, didn't divide into clicks. My class had, I believe, about 50 or 60 students, still quite small.

Hayes: Yeah, I wondered. They’re so big now, you know.

Elkins: The class ahead of me had 30 students and so yes…

Hayes: So you knew them all. Did you socialize with the married students then who were in the same boat?

Elkins: Well, they were right there, but they had their own social life. No, I was dating.

Hayes: Oh, you hadn’t married?

Elkins: No, I hadn’t married Tina until I practiced a year or two.

Hayes: Okay, okay, I’m sorry, I had you married quicker than that.

Elkins: It was an extended campaign (laughter).

Haas: Well, I was just wondering if you had any women or minorities in the classes then or was it all men?

Elkins: We had two women and neither of them became noted lawyers, but both of them graduated and practiced law. I really haven’t seen either of them in 20 or 30 years. When I came to Wilmington, there was just one female lawyer and she was very smart. She was married to a lawyer, they practiced together and it was some time before we had another lady…you know, I believe there were two because I wasn’t counting Margaret Fonvielle who was the wife of Alec Fonvielle and he also was a lawyer and Margaret, they had some children and I don’t think she was practicing at the time, but later she did practice.

Haas: Was the teaching method in law school mostly Socratic method?

Elkins: Yes.

Haas: Did you enjoy that or did you not like that?

Elkins: I never thought about it (laughter). It’s what you had to do. It never occurred to me to think about whether I liked it or not.

Hayes: With that small class in a close-knit group, I would assume that the professors became pivotal. I mean were there ones that you can remember yet today that made a difference in that time period?

Elkins: I remember them all. A difference in what way?

Hayes: Well I’m just saying, I went through college and I’d have a hard time sometimes even remembering some of them, but when I talk to lawyers, it seems like that professor was central to the process.

Elkins: Yes, at that time there weren’t that many professors either.

Hayes: Oh, that’s true.

Elkins: I don’t know, there may have been 10 or 12, something like that, there may have been fewer. I can only really think of about six.

Hayes: Well who were some of them that you …

Elkins: Well Albert Coates who made a substantial contribution to the state of North Carolina. He founded the Institute of Government, he had the idea that when people were elected to public office, they ought, it would be nice if they had some sort of training and found out what they were expected to do.

When a register of deeds was elected just in the general campaign, there’s no requirement that they know anything about it and some of them did not know anything about it. Some of them, well when I came to Wilmington, the register of deeds was Bob Black and he was a nice guy and he was very friendly and he had been a football coach at New Hanover High. This was before I got here and I don’t know exactly what happened, but he didn't know anything about the register of deeds when he was elected.

So Albert Coates had the idea that it would be nice to set up something where they were just given the rudimentary training, just a little bit of knowledge of what the office required, how you could get in trouble, things that you wanted to avoid or be careful about, ways which clerks had gotten in trouble, things to avoid, judges and also some rudimentary knowledge of the principles of law that govern whatever it was that they were doing.

So he set that up. It took a while for it to catch on. It was a private effort. I don’t know where he got the money, but he didn't get money, I don’t think he got any money from the state. It gradually expanded and became say all the highway patrolmen had to go to the Institute of Government for training. All of the police chiefs, there’s one for police chiefs and there’s one just for policemen, although I’m not sure policemen are doing it anymore. I think perhaps the highway patrol still is. We had classes for county commissioners, city council.

Hayes: That’s great.

Elkins: It really was and it was the first. We were the first in the nation to do that. He was a lot of fun and he was certainly not on our level, you know. He was way above us. We were down there, he was up here. I don’t mean he was a lot of fun as a boon companion, but he was a delightful professor and we held him in considerable respect. There were other men of equal caliber, Dean Brandies, Henry Breckinridge, Goldberg, my real estate professor and Bill Adcock.

Bill was at the time a graduate student and Albert Coates was always doing something so he would get Bill to come over and teach when he was not there and before I left, Bill was on the faculty and I took wills under Bill Adcock. Let’s see, I don’t think of anymore, Freddie B. McColl was a real estate professor. I don’t think there were anymore.

Hayes: Could you take a track that you wanted to take and some people take one emphasis and others another or was it pretty standard?

Elkins: First year was pretty much everything was required. The second and third years I would say half of what you took was required and the other half was optional.

Hayes: And what emphasis did you choose particularly?

Elkins: Nothing esoteric, pretty much what I thought would be interesting. Now remember I was going there just sort of for fun. I wasn’t really intending to be a lawyer particularly.

Hayes: Really, you were thinking …

Elkins: Well, I knew I was going to have to do something (laughter). I didn't come from wealthy parents or anything like that. So you know, why not.

Hayes: Now was your dad still alive when you graduated?

Elkins: Yes, he was. He was a lawyer as I may have mentioned in Bladenboro, but as he told me, if there were two lawyers in Bladenboro, both of them would starve to death (laughter).

Hayes: (Laughter) And he probably was right.

Elkins: Yes, he probably was right. Since his death, there has not been even one. No one came in to take his place. It was a lot harder to practice law away from the county seat, away from the courtroom and away from the registry and the clerk’s office, all the public buildings. You can do it. There’s quite a bit of it.

Now here in Wilmington, lawyers at Carolina Beach and at Wrightsville Beach, but they do it mostly because if you’re going to practice successfully, you’ve got to have some clients and if you’re starting out and you open an office in a community where there are no lawyers, you will get some business and so it gets them off to a running start and some of them stay there.

Hayes: You had been interested in the bar exam.

Haas: One question maybe before we do that, during law school did you work at all for an attorney or get any basic legal practice in the summers or anything like that?

Elkins: None whatever, absolutely none. We had a mock debate, which was called a moot court very early, and it was a poor imitation of appellate work and arguing points of law before a panel of justices. It was not trial work and there was nothing remotely practical. The only other thing that I remember is that Freddie McColl had the idea that every lawyer ought to learn how to draw a description so he made us all prepare and turn in a description of a piece of real property, but it was not a deed.

I’d never seen a formal deed before I graduated. That’s a fact and anything else much. I had a lot of theoretical knowledge and almost no practical knowledge, again not a good idea. But in that day and time, it was okay. You could do that.

Hayes: But they were assuming you many times would come and work with someone else.

Elkins: I wouldn’t say that.

Hayes: Really, so some people went out and were just on their own?

Elkins: Yeah. It wasn’t bad; it was a lot simpler then.

Haas: Did you have friends at any other law schools?

Elkins: No. It was there at some distance. Well Duke was not, but even then, we stayed pretty busy and there was really no occasion that would bring you together.

Haas: Well the bar exam itself, now I assume you took the North Carolina bar. What was that like? How did you take the bar in those days?

Elkins: Just two years before then had been the last oral exams and those exams were conducted by the North Carolina Supreme Court and the attorneys, the prospects would appear in the Supreme Court courtroom and the judges would take their seats and they would examine them.

At the time, I would say during wartime, classes were still pretty small. There might have been just 15 or 20. I don’t know how long they’d go, I never attended one. I would assume they certainly wouldn’t have lasted more than a day. They were oral. So if you divide a day among 20 people or 15, you don’t get much of a sense of what they know.

But still, they made an effort to be sure you were competent. There was a guy ahead of me in law school who was the son of a former Supreme Court justice, Brogden, Justice Brogden, and the son one year ahead of me, was named Blackwell M. Brogden and we all called him Dog, Dog Brogden. Dog flunked the bar, you know. His father’s colleagues, and you know, they were right (laughter). He flunked the bar so he came back and took another year of law school and took it again, flunked it again and then he took it with me and passed. Then he went and practiced law in Durham and died not long ago. So they were oral.

Haas: Were there any sort of bar review course that you took beforehand?

Elkins: Yes, there were. In those days also, you could, the apprentice system was still in effect. You did not have to go to law school. You could practice law under an attorney who tutored you in the principles at hand and you practiced under his supervision and when he deemed you suitably knowledgeable, he could recommend you to the bar and they could, if they chose, administer the examination and give you a license to practice law.

Further back in the frontier days, that’s how most lawyers came to be lawyers and it was still going on. So what happened, that gradually evolved into a number of private law schools and some of them were quite good.

Mrs. Rogers, who I mentioned earlier, and her husband, Edmond Rogers, conducted their own little law school here in Wilmington and when I came to the bar here, there were several attorneys, I can think of three or four including a couple of leading attorneys, Rush McClelland, Aaron Goldberg, Gil Farmer, Bill Rhodes, Brown several others, who had gone through Mr. Rogers’ law school and taken…

Hayes: Did she work in the law school as well? I mean we’ve heard of his law school. I didn't know that she was involved at all. Did she help teach?

Elkins: He had stopped doing that when I began practicing so I don’t know, but I would certainly think that she was very active in the teaching. I would certainly think so. Don’t know that though. But anyway your question was concerning preparing for the exam and some of these law schools, one of them particularly, conducted a very good review course.

In law school we studied the law generally with an emphasis on North Carolina law. In these private law schools, they studied purely North Carolina law and that was all you needed to know to pass the exam, and that was all you needed to know to practice and they didn't teach you what they might do in Maryland or in Utah so it was an excellent review course to take the bar, some of them were. I did that.

Hayes: Which one did you take?

Elkins: I don’t remember the name. It was not that big, I can’t remember, but I doubt it was more than a week. I don’t really remember, but it was not a big deal.

Hayes: How about the exam itself then? How long did that take?

Elkins: Three days and it was scary. You know, you didn't really know if you passed or not and it was strictly pass/fail and you don’t find out until weeks later because there were a number of examiners and each examiner would take questions to grade.

He would grade all the answers to question 3, and they were essay type answers and I now realize that he was looking for knowledge of the general area, which legal principles are applicable and beyond that, if possible, how have the North Carolina courts ruled and what might they do in this factual situation, but that was not as important I think as a knowledge of what are the questions and where do you go to find the answers. That’s what you really need to practice law. You don’t have to know all the answers. You have to know what the questions are and where to find the answers. When I was taking the exam, I didn't realize that (laughter).

Hayes: You wrote about everything you could think of, right? (Laughter)

Haas: I take it the exam looked at the basic subjects we would think of like contracts, torts, property, anything that was surprising to you or different?

Elkins: No.

Haas: By the way in Virginia, you can still apprentice for the law.

Elkins: I think you can here.

Haas: Can you?

Elkins: I don’t hear anything about it.

Haas: Virginia has one or two a year that do that, get at the bar.

Elkins: We may too.

Haas: Interesting.

Hayes: And of course a very famous president named Abraham Lincoln, that was the method that he approached it.

Elkins: That’s right and I think Andrew Jackson just simply went to a small city and put a sign outside his office saying Andrew Jackson, Lawyer. He didn't do anything. It was in Tennessee. As I understand it, I read that in one of his biographies.

Haas: Patrick Henry was that way also, of not really studying the law and then, you actually went to the attorney’s office in Virginia. The Supreme Court would set three attorneys up that you went to and you would sit in the office and they would grill you that way. Each one would have to sign the back of your license and the first one who questioned them, said this guy doesn’t know anything (laughter), come back later. He said the more I talked to him though; he had a good legal mind. Then later he signed it. But only two of the three would sign it.

Elkins: This is Patrick Henry?

Haas: Patrick Henry.

Hayes: So you get out and so why Wilmington? Because it was big enough and it was nearby?

Elkins: No, no, it was, the Dean of the law school, Henry Brandies, took it upon himself to find, to place all of his graduates. A great many of them had someplace to go, but there were some of us who did not and so he set me up to see somebody in Winston-Salem who, I don’t know, I just didn't like him very much and I don’t think he liked me (laughter).

And the second try, he sent me down to Wilmington to see Mr. Emmett Bellamy. These were all older lawyers who were looking for younger lawyers to come in and take over part of the work and possibly sell their practice to in a few years, that sort of thing. They were older lawyers who somehow he found out were looking for an associate and so he sent me to Emmett Bellamy and I liked him. He was a lot closer to where I grew up.

Hayes: I was going to say.

Elkins: And I liked Wilmington, so.

Hayes: Tell us a little bit about Wilmington. What was your impression in 1951?

Elkins: I’ve heard nothing from you (speaking to his wife). Do you have anything to add?

MRS. ELKINS: You haven’t needed correcting.

Hayes: Why don’t you come in for a couple minutes anyway?

MRS. ELKINS: Well I’m listening to everything you’re saying. It’s very interesting.

Hayes: This is Tina? Take one picture.

Elkins: Tina.

Hayes: What’s your middle name Tina?

Elkins: Well my maiden name, Cadenhead.

Hayes: Okay, I’m going to put it back on him. We know the camera can handle him okay so we’re safe. We were talking about Wilmington when you came in ’51. What was it like? What kind of a place was it? For the people listening, we’re at the corner of Third and Princess looking right out on the big county courthouse. The court is right down the street. This is lawyers’ row, right, a lot of them here. So Wilmington, tell us a little bit.

Elkins: It was a great deal smaller and pretty much everything was downtown. As to being smaller, I don’t know the size of the city at the time, but I guess it was perhaps 30,000 – 35,000, something like that. There was a considerable to do a number of years later trying to get up to 50,000 at which point we became eligible for something, I don’t know what, certain government programs.

We did it by expanding the city limits and taking in more people and all of that. We were well below 50,000 when I first came. And I had practiced law, well all of the lawyers, you know, maybe there were one or two exceptions, were downtown. All of the doctors were downtown. All of the leading stores were downtown, Belk’s, Sears, Efrid’s. All of the automobile dealers were downtown. Everything was downtown.

It must have been six to eight years, ten years when there was the first shopping center, which was at 17th and Market. It’s that little strip center; I don’t know what you call it now.

Hayes: As a furniture store, were you an antique store in there now?

Elkins: That was the first thing of that kind, the shopping center and it was quite a deal, you know. People could go out there and see it.

Hayes: Now had you folk’s married by ’51 at this point.

MRS. ELKINS: No, I taught in Southport for two years after I got my Master’s in Chapel Hill.

Hayes: You have a Master’s degree?

MRS. ELKINS: In English.

Hayes: And of course was that at the time when you had to be unmarried to teach?

MRS. ELKINS: No, no, you could have been married. That was not the holdup (laughter).

Hayes: So you lived in Southport and he lived here. You had a long distance…

MRS. ELKINS: Well, fairly close. He knows more about Wilmington than I do.

Hayes: But you got married in about ’53 then? And you moved here? So where did you live? Everybody lived close to downtown too?

Elkins: Yep, pretty much. We lived actually at Princess between 17th and 18th and we rented an apartment, an upstairs apartment from Mrs. Rivers Lawther, the widow of a doctor.

Hayes: That wasn’t too far from that big Episcopal Church then, right?

Elkins: Right, it was right there. Another thing about Wilmington at that time was that it was pretty much a closed Southern society. There were the elite, the old Wilmingtonians who had been the, whose parents had been the elite before them. It was an inherited status or acquired by marriage. If you were on the outside, you were just on the outside.

Hayes: And you considered yourself on the outside?

Elkins: Oh yeah, no question about that.

Hayes: But the Bellamy name, I mean, was your partner. Wasn’t he a distinguished family? Was he from the Bellamys?

Elkins: Oh he was fine, but that didn't give me anything (laughter). So that was, you know, and they controlled everything, all of the clubs and the various things that you might like to be a member of. I guess you could get into them on merit if you were good at growing gardenias for example; you could rise to high status there somehow (laughter).

In general, that wasn’t the case and so that broke up about 10 or 15 years later when we had a little mini depression when the Coastline moved its headquarters which was a considerable blow to the downtown area and began actively soliciting industries to come here. You’ve got DuPont and GE and Corning, well Corning was later, Hercules, Grace and a number of those people.

And those people came down here and they had money and they had power and they had influence and they had connections and they didn't give a damn (laughter) whose son you were or whose daughter you were.

Hayes: Is that right?

Elkins: And they were very much in demand. You know, those people wanted them to come join the country club and invigorated with their new ideas and their different views and their money. They broke it open.

Hayes: Early 60’s then.

Elkins: Yeah, yeah, middle 60’s maybe. But that broke it open, but it was not like that when I first came. This was a Southern town.

Hayes: But you were a Southern boy, but you were from the country. You weren’t from Wilmington.

Elkins: Well we also didn't spend a lot of effort on it, you know. We didn't really try. I guess we could of worked our way into the lower levels if we had worked at it, but children were coming along. We were busy.

Hayes: How many children did you have?

Elkins: Six.

Hayes: Six! Oh, well that would keep anybody busy I think. What were their names? Tell us for the record.

Elkins: Steven, Susan, Julia, Catherine, Sarah and Patricia.

Hayes: And they would have all been …

Elkins: The last two were twins.

Hayes: New Hanover High School at that point?

Elkins: They were all Hoggard.

Hayes: Oh that was interesting.

MRS. ELKINS: Of course, also we had the integration in there and so they moved around quite a bit. Some of them went to Williston because it was a junior high by that time.

Hayes: Interesting. That would have been the 70’s then by that time, late 70’s.

Elkins: No, I think earlier.

MRS. ELKINS: Let’s see, Steven was born in ’56. By the time he was in high school, integration came. His high school was integrated, Hoggard was.

Hayes: Well tell us about this first partner, Bellamy. What was the relationship there? You really were, there were particular jobs in the law firm that you were going to do by coming in as the new person or was it everything?

Elkins: No, it was everything. I was not doing any particular kind of work, just sort of…if you’re a lawyer and you practice for some time, you begin getting more work than you can do and there are several courses you can take. You can narrow your practice and just say well I’m not going to do any more Workmen’s Comp or I’m not going to do any more domestic work or you can just say I’m not going to take anybody else that I don’t like (laughter) or you can raise your fees (laughter) or you can take in a partner or an associate.

Hayes: Or all of the above (laughter).

Elkins: And so that’s a choice that any successful lawyer has to make after he’s practiced 10 or 15 years.

Hayes: Is that usually when you feel …

Elkins: You can decide which way it’s going to go. Of course, now there are many, many more lawyers in firms than there used to be. There used to be, well when I came to Wilmington, there were just two or three firms. Maybe there was only one, of more than two lawyers.

Hayes: So that’s what I’m trying to say. By firm, you mean a larger grouping of lawyers. But would two lawyers be pretty common?

Elkins: No, I don’t know, there were maybe six or eight two-member firms. I’m just not real sure beyond that.

Hayes: But most people were single practitioners.

Elkins: A great many of us were.

Hayes: Now would you have an assistant as a norm? I mean you’re here working as a secretary.

MRS. ELKINS: Only the last 15 years.

Elkins: You would not in those days have a paralegal. There were no paralegals. Some lawyers had secretaries who had over the years gotten so much knowledge that they would pretty much let them do an estate by themselves. There was nobody like this in Wilmington, but in Burgaw I know there were a couple of secretaries that lawyers would let go and check titles, nobody like that here. But somebody who was purely a paralegal, there were not any at all.

Hayes: So you were in general practice and you stayed in general practice. Is that how you would categorize your career?

Elkins: Yes.

Hayes: You didn't choose one of the narrowing so much?

Elkins: I guess that’s what I did when I began to get increasingly busy and I did give up Workmen’s Comp and domestic work, divorce, adoptions, custody, alimony.

Hayes: You gave all of that up?

Elkins: Gave it all up. That was a big jump.

Hayes: You were 10 years into your career at that point or 10 or 15 you said.

Elkins: Yeah, somewhere like that.

Hayes: So then what did you choose to do more of?

Elkins: At that point, I was still doing a lot of real estate and some personal injury work and some general practice, business, wills, things like that, estates.

Hayes: Didn't go the criminal route?

Elkins: No, no, I did some criminal work, but I was not one of the top criminal lawyers.

Hayes: When you say you did criminal work, I don’t know what that really means.

Elkins: It would mean that if somebody came in with a traffic ticket or that type of thing. I was not doing the felony work.

Hayes: Murders and so forth.

Elkins: That’s right, that’s right. Didn't do much Superior Court work really as much as District Court.

Hayes: And tell us when you say real estate work for people who don’t really know what that it is, what are some of the parameters when you talk about real estate work? What kinds of things does a lawyer have to do in that area?

Elkins: Well, when property is being bought or sold, the buyer usually should make sure that the title is clear, that there are no mortgages on the property, no liens of any kind, unpaid taxes, judgments, whatever it might be.

He also needs quite often to make sure, well not quite often, but fairly often, to make sure that you’re dealing with who owns this property especially if there’s been a death somewhere in the chain of title, that all of the heirs were joined in the conveyance to you, that you don’t skip a couple of them, which has certainly been known to happen.

It’s particularly true when people have just sort of disappeared and haven’t been heard from in years and the parent who stays behind dies, and the children who stayed here don’t know what happened to so and so and they haven’t heard from them. They tried to find him for the funeral, couldn’t find him and don’t know whether he’s alive or dead and they don’t think he’s entitled to anything anyway (laughter).

They feel like he really should not inherit anything and I don’t know that I would disagree with that. Probably if the person had left a will, they would have been left out, but there’s not a will. And so you’ve got to deal with that somehow.

Hayes: Now which person came to you as the lawyer? Did you get both sides of that question?

Elkins: Usually the buyer, but the seller, to some extent, I do a lot of work for sellers now.

Hayes: But I’m saying, say you have a controversy in that family, you would be available for hire either from the family who wants to not have the person involved or did you ever get the person who came back from…

Elkins: It’s pretty objective. There’s not a lot of room for controversy or debate or lawsuits. It’s a question of fact and once you ascertain that so and so had a child named Billy and he’s still alive and there was no will, there’s nothing to dispute.

Hayes: Then what do you do?

Elkins: You’ve got to find Billy and sign him up or you can bring a suit for partition to sell the property and divide the money and you can pay his share into court.

Hayes: On the theory that you find him.

Elkins: And if you can never find him, there’s the money. That’s a valid way to clear that up. But you’ve got to do something. You can’t just leave out there. Billy Broadfoot built the Southern Bell Building, as it was then at the southwest corner of 5th and Princess. At the time, he was the president of the Azalea Festival, right when he closed the sale, which was tremendously demanding of his time.

He made trips to the west coast back when that was hard to do looking for people to come to the festival, stars and whatnot. He bought this property and missed an heir. And after he had built the building, the heir turned up and wanted his share of what the property was now worth (laughter) including the building.

Hayes: Including the building?

Elkins: That’s right and those things do happen.

Hayes: Was that one of your cases?

Elkins: No, no. Billy was a friend of mine and I was active in the Azalea Festival.

Hayes: Is that Billy, the one that lives on Wrightsville now?

Elkins: No, he’s long gone. I wouldn’t tell you if he was still around.

Hayes: There are still some Broadfoot’s.

Elkins: It’s the same family. But Billy was a good buddy of mine. As I say, I wouldn’t tell you if he was still around, but he’s not.

Hayes: So are there some cases that you can tell us as examples of land over the years. You don’t have to give us all of the family names and so forth, but what kind of things…this is kind of an extreme…

Elkins: Yeah, that’s not a usual thing.

Hayes: Most of the time, it’s really diligent work of figuring out these facts so that the buyer or seller is protected.

Elkins: That’s right. It really is a matter of diligence and taking care, being meticulous.

Hayes: So where would you do your research? Down in the vaults…

Elkins: Register of Deeds, in the Clerk’s Office where the wills are kept.

Hayes: They got to know you well (laughter).

Elkins: That’s right, that’s where I spent most of my time.

Haas: How about the bar of the day? A lot of camaraderie in the members of the bar? Anything you can tell us about that of interest?

Elkins: Well the bar is a great deal larger now. There were somewhere between 50 and 65 lawyers when I came to the bar and now it’s north of 400. Part of that is a function of the increased population, but the great majority of it is a function of the increased complexity of the law.

When I began practicing all of the statutory law, all of the statutory law of North Carolina, there is all of the laws which are generally applicable throughout the state were in four volumes. That does not include what is called local legislation, which might be a law as we have a law which defines the berm line at Wrightsville Beach and says everything seaward of this line is public property, everything landward of this line is capable of private ownership.

That was a law of question of dubious constitutionality, which has never been challenged. Passed by the legislature and I don’t include that, that’s local legislation. But the laws are generally applicable were just in four volumes and that was all of the laws except for the regulation of the Industrial Commission which administered the Workmen’s Comp and the Utilities Commission which administered utilities, rate fixing. They had their own little booklet, a small flexible booklet.

But other than that, that was all of the written statutory law. A great deal of it was general principles and then in the application to a particular set of facts, it was a matter of reasoning it out and deciding what’s fair and that sort of thing. There has been this compulsion over the last 50 years to spell everything out and to leave as little as possible to the discretion of the deciding official, usually the judge or referee or whatever it might be.

And now, the general statutes- we will look at the camera …its not all that. Anyway instead of being this long, it’s this long twice and that’s just the legislative law. The administrative rules of maybe 50 administrative agencies have been created since then. A great number of all these little booklets, it’s not possible to know all the law to really be on top of it.

In those days, you didn't need to because it was a matter of general principles. It’s the same sort of thing that’s got the accounting profession in a lot of trouble right now because the general idea 30 years ago, the published financial reports and the accountants’ opinion was supposed to present a fair and clear picture of the financial affairs of the corporation.

There are a great many close questions and over time, they began writing rules to say what you do in this situation. Once you write it down, you can find your way out of it, you know. You can say well this adjective right here and that over there doesn’t apply, so I’m outside that rule. When you’ve got all the rules there, then it became legitimate to step outside the rule a little bit and say well the rule doesn’t apply here because of so and so and they lost sight of the principle that it’s not supposed to deceive people.

The accounting reports now, some of them at least, to which not only the accountants but also the investment bankers and the brokers are all parties. They’re all accomplices. They’re intending to present a false picture and to persuade people to part with their money in reliance on those reports and it has become widespread conspiracy to commit fraud. It’s in a lot of the investment world.

It’s part of the same movement, I don’t know what drives it, to get away from general principles and start spilling things out. You don’t like to give that much discretion to the deciding official, to the judge. You want rules, you can look in the book, here’s the rule. If I do it, then I’m okay. Whether that’s correct or not, there is such a movement and law has become vastly complicated and that’s another reason why there’s so many lawyers. You need lawyers now. You didn't need lawyers before in a lot of cases.

This is the second tape, continued interview with Tina, Lloyd, Mike and Sherm.

Hayes: A question that I was interested in tell us about some of the other lawyers then that you’ve worked with over the years. That helps us get a sense for the researcher to know who was this growing community. You mentioned Mr. Bellamy. He was a general practitioner as well or did he have a different background than that?

Elkins: Yes, he was a general practitioner. This is not my forte. I’m not good at telling anecdotes. I’m not a raconteur at all.

MRS. ELKINS: You’ve got some good ones.

Elkins: (Laughter) Well tell me one.

MRS. ELKINS: Wasn’t there good ones about Mr. Goldberg? He used to occupy this office.

Elkins: Yeah, Aaron Goldberg was a product of Mr. Rogers Law School. He was Jewish, Orthodox, he wore his little skullcap on appropriate occasions, but was not prominent Jewish you know, you didn't notice it all the time. He, I don’t know much about his early days, but he was here n Wilmington, used to run, ran a pool room down on Front Street…

Hayes: And practiced law?

Elkins: No, no, this is be even went to law school and he had a very good way with people. You know, he was likeable. People liked to listen to him talk, which is a very valuable thing if you’re a trial attorney. If people just enjoy listening to you, that makes a tremendous difference. That’s one of the most valuable traits you can have. He was fun to be around. He was extremely successful.

He was very good at trial work, that’s all he did. He was not a research guy. Actually Aaron knew a lot of law, but he didn't use it. If he had an appeal, he would associate George Roundtree who was deeply knowledgeable of the law and who was not very good at trial work, but who was good at appellate work.

But Aaron was probably the leading personal injury and criminal lawyer when I first came to Wilmington. As time went by, others became good, but Aaron was probably the best one.

Hayes: How long did he last then, into the 70’s still practicing?

Elkins: Probably, probably something like that.

Hayes: Because there’s no time to retire as a lawyer, right? There is no law.

Elkins: No, no.

Hayes: As long as your licenses…

Elkins: Well yeah, the economics are beginning to compel retirement now. I’m pretty unusual to keep on practicing. In those days, you could, after you retired, if you wished, you could come down and clerk and you could get a little office and a telephone and a typewriter, a one room office, and come down and read the paper, go out to coffee, go over to court and see what’s going on, go in the backroom, talk to the lawyers who were standing around waiting for trial, which is always the nicest part of trial work (laughter).

You could do that and you really didn't need to take in any money, but today there are a great many things that you have to do. You have to take continuing legal education courses, which is 12 hours a year and this is just one of many, many things. It’s 12 hours a year and it’s $30-40 a piece, based on $400 a year. Your telephone is about $100 a month. Your office rent is about $500 a month.

You probably need a computer and you have to buy the computer and then maintain it, stay up with the books and you have to have a fax machine and a copy machine, license and fees to the city, malpractice insurance.

Hayes: So all of a sudden, putzing is easily $10,000 or more dollars.

Elkins: Way above that and so you just can’t come down and fool around (laughter). I have cut way back on my practice. I’m only doing probably about a third of what I used to do. But one thing about it is, practicing law is very pleasant if you’re not trying to make money. Just taking work that you think you might like to do and dealing with people that you think you might like, that you’ve known a long time and you do like. It’s kind of different from aggressively trying to maximize your income.

Hayes: But in your particular area, it seems to me that tremendous experience of seeing so many different land transactions and types of situations and so forth, that’s to your advantage. I mean a new person going into real estate law must be a very complex world to not have seen any of those examples. It seems that you would really offer something based on years of the same kind of specialization.

Elkins: That’s not true in the real world. I don’t want to engage in a bitter diatribe about how the world’s going to hell. I’ll stay away from that. But I would say the root change has been the advent of title insurance. As a result of title insurance, it’s possible to do pretty shoddy work, really quite shoddy work and the last 20% of effort only picks up an additional maybe 1% or 2% of the possible things you might find.

You can do that first 80% and get title insurance and then if there’s something wrong, the title company will step in and clear it up and in land dues which is where a lot of the money comes from, don’t care. Now the owner, landowner cares, but the lenders don’t care.

Hayes: Lenders being like a mortgage company or a bank or an insurance company.

Elkins: They just want their loan paid off.

Hayes: So how does that insurance work? Where’s the money made by the firms? Most of them don’t ever get challenged so it’s like all insurance, few claims.

Elkins: Less work and so the nature of the practice has changed. There’s still some demand for the type of work that I do. It’s not remotely as much demand as there used to be. There’s another way to look at it, which is much kinder. You can say this is like casualty insurance. This is just casualty insurance. This not a guaranty of good workmanship or that sort of thing, it’s casualty insurance. If something’s wrong, the casualty insurance will pay off and we’ll go on. In fact, why even bother to check the title.

Hayes: Oh really?

Elkins: There’s some who have made that argument. It has turned out on a casualty basis, that that’s not wise, that you do need to make, it’s more economic, the best result is with a certain amount of title examination. But that’s beginning to take the casualty approach.

Hayes: When did that really start, 10 years ago?

Elkins: There was never a decision to start it, it just gradually evolved in that direction. I wouldn't say there’s been a sharp break at any point. That’s about where it is now.

Hayes: Do you think that there’s more turnover of property than there used to be?

Elkins: Yeah.

Hayes: Is that part of it too?

Elkins: That is part of it.

Hayes: It was a big deal to sell something in the past plus people moved so much that houses can be here today and tomorrow they’re moving out.

Elkins: That is certainly part of it. That aspect of it, society is probably better off. Houses and land have become much more liquid. It’s much easier to buy and sell and to convert them into cash that it used to be and that’s probably a good thing. It facilitates that.

Hayes: Right and then lenders make their money with turnover, right? They want speed.

Elkins: They do. Actually you would think they make their money with interest, but they have up front one-time fees and lenders really want it to turn over. They make a great deal more money if they could turn their portfolio over once every seven years than if it’s once every 12 years. They much prefer to refinance as often as possible and so forth.

Hayes: Yeah, when the interest rate drops, they have good times because everybody rushes in and refinances. Now as a lawyer, even as an outside lawyer, you would be called in to be involved in all kinds of community things I would guess. I mean what are some of the things over the years that you’ve been involved with in the community? Have you been at Winter Park Presbyterian Church these many years? I know you go there now. Was that one of your….Mike, by the way, they grabbed him at First Presbyterian (laughter). We’ll forgive him that mistake.

Elkins: They’re loftier…

MRS. ELKINS: And certainly more numerous (laughter).

Hayes: With a bigger organ. You mentioned the Azalea Festival, was that something that you personally got involved in?

Elkins: Yeah, I was in that for a number of years and that was a nice thing to do. It was really fun in the early years, maybe 10-15 years.

Hayes: What kinds of things, were you on the committee itself that plan it?

Elkins: Yeah. In the beginning, it was highly informal. Meetings were over in the City Hall. When I came to Wilmington, it had not been going on very long, just four, five years. There were different people who claimed credit for starting the Azalea Festival, but in my opinion it was probably started by Hugh Morton more than anyone else. A lot of people came together, but Hugh I think was the moving spirit.

He was a promoter. He was good at that. Still is up at Grandfather Mountain and he gradually transferred his operations up there. But Hugh was a scion of the McRae family and he was an excellent photographer and he had connections all over the state, friends and he was just a naturally born publicist, promoter.

He had the idea of having some sort of festival, getting a lot of pretty girls down here when the flowers were at their height, taking pictures of them and sending them out all over the state and he just thought it would be sort of a great thing for the city to do. The city got involved in it and the county got involved in it and they decided to do it. There had been a Pirate’s Festival, but it had kind of worn itself out, dropped out.

Hayes: Late twenties I think it was.

Elkins: Yeah, way back and this was the first thing since then and in the beginning, it was very, very informal. Anybody that wanted to could just go over to City Hall and show up at the meeting and if you weren’t careful, they’d give you something to do (laughter) right then. Very much a volunteer effort. Over time, people got to be good at doing something – they had done the parade for three years, the knew how to space the people, they knew how to control the people and Billy Rehder got to be the guy that ran the parade.

Billy was very good at it. He knew how to get the floats built and where to keep them and how to get them down on time and which streets that needed to be blocked off and how many police, and all of that Billy ran the parade. Other people ran the dance and they ran the coronation of the queen, other events, the air show.

Hayes: Were you the legal counsel?

Elkins: No, no, I didn't do any legal work. I was just sort of roaming around. One year I was Chairman of the New Ideas Committee because you would always have these nuts that would come down with these wild proposals of what we ought to do and so and so. You could spend an awful lot of time really investigating whether that was a good idea or not and so I was the waste basket (laughter).

Hayes: Now did you get any new ideas out of that ever?

Elkins: Yeah, there were some good ideas, but there were a great many that were not good ideas (laughter) and I did that one-year. For 2-3 years, I was the Liquor Committee, which was a great job because it was my job to get liquor to all of the events so I got to go to all of the events that there were. It was just splendid, hauling this liquor around. It was very much against the law I’m afraid. I would have a car full of liquor.

MRS. ELKINS: Unopened!

Elkins: It wasn’t open, but there was some sort of limit on how much you were supposed to have in the car and that simply just wasn’t feasible to do that. So I would go over to Orton let’s say with a trunk full. It was a great job though. It might have been my best job.

Hayes: ‘Cause you got to go to so many things.

Elkins: Right, I was treasurer one year, maybe a couple of years. I was treasurer the year the Azalea Festival almost went broke. It had been running on some time and people were getting kind of tired of it and everybody said you know, do we really want to do this again and it got to be pretty hard to raise money and Bill Rehder was president that year and Bill went around and just begged for money.

Hayes: When was this, do you think? Sixties?

Elkins: Maybe, maybe a little later. And if Bill had not been president, if it had somebody that would have just let it go, it would have stopped, been the end of it then. Two or three times since then, there have been years when people just say well I’m tired of it, I don’t want to do it anymore, it’s a lot of work and why are we doing this, but I don’t think it’s ever reached that point since then.

Hayes: You had mentioned earlier kind of the old families. There’s still some sense that the Azalea Festival, you know, with the queen and the princesses and all of this, is it an inclusive festival? It sounds like you thought it was an inclusive festival.

Elkins: It was extremely, extremely democratic and inclusive. In the beginning, festivals like this were rare. There were not many in the United States and we got some really top people from the West Coast, we got some of the top movie stars.

Hayes: Jazz musicians.

Elkins: We did. Now the best we can do for queen let’s say, instead of Esther Williams, we have to get the soap opera star.

Hayes: I know, that’s kind of funny, isn’t it.

Elkins: I haven’t even known who they were, the last 10 years.

Hayes: Some of that is just the amount of time that somebody will give you anymore because the person is here for quite a few days. Isn’t it Wednesday through Sunday almost? If you think about any of us, Wednesday through Sunday …

Elkins: That’s quite true. The star, however, Esther Williams, it was a great photo op for her. She got a lot of publicity by being queen and I think that she felt that she got something out of it herself and it was not a matter of just doing us a favor. It was to her advantage also to some extent, maybe not complete compensation, but it was her handlers, her publicity people thought it was a good idea. So we really did get some top people, which we don’t know. If we do, we have to pay a lot of money. I’m out of it, but I think an appearance fee costs anywhere from $20 to $50,000.

Hayes: I’m sure you’re right.

Elkins: When you’ve got a big name now.

Hayes: And they have to fill that Trask Auditorium just to make a go with the singers or bands that they bring in, I mean I don’t think the venue has ever had to have 5000 people before, did you? Now it seems that Natalie Cole was $45 a ticket, had to fill it up and they probably did okay. So different times. Other civic activities that…

Elkins: Not too much.

Hayes: Six kids, we want to go over those again, right?

Haas: Any of your children become attorneys?

Elkins: Susan is an attorney, but she’s not practicing. She’s in Raleigh busy raising children.

Haas: Did she marry an attorney by chance?

Elkins: No, she married a guy with Polygram.

Hayes: Now would you in your particular type of work end up in front of a judge or usually it was done in a more formal paperwork sense or did you have to go and operate in the courtroom itself?

Elkins: Well in the later years after I had narrowed my practice, during the war judge was pretty war. There was no need. As I say, once you’ve carefully done the work, there’s not much to discuss or debate. It’s pretty much open and shut.

Hayes: I was just asking if some of the judges that you may have come up against over the years, that was where I was leading in case there were any characters within …

Elkins: No, I don’t have much experience with the current crop of judges. My judges were 40 years back.

Hayes: Well who were some of those judges? Since we’re covering history here, that’s actually valuable, those 40 years back.

Elkins: Well if that’s what you want, certainly the person to talk about is Winfield Smith who was an attorney and who in my time was the judge of the District Court, which was more or less the people’s court. You know, Superior Court is higher up; it’s felonies and that sort of thing. The District Court is lots and lots of traffic and assaults, that kind of thing. It’s neighborhood disputes, shooting the neighbor’s dog; somebody has been putting ju-ju dust on my front porch.

Hayes: Do we want to say what ju-ju dust is?

Elkins: It’s a voodoo kind of thing and I was present once in court when there was a big, big fight and that’s what the fight was about. Somebody was putting dust on this guy’s lintel and he thought he knew who it was.

Hayes: And he thought it was voodoo?

Elkins: Yeah, trying to put a hex on him, yep.

Hayes: Wow, there’s a recent court case right now about that.

Elkins: We had it all the time. That was one of Winfield’s rules. He said, I never put off a neighborhood dispute. I don’t let them put it off. I don’t let them continue it, whatever it is, it has to be tried then. If you put it off, bad things may happen. You don’t know what might happen and it’s better to go ahead and do it. He was very much; Winfield was a very wise person.

He was from Kelly. He came down here and practiced briefly. Then ran for, I guess he ran for judge first, I believe he did. And ran against a popular other attorney and you know, everyone said you have no chance, and Winfield went house to house asking people to vote for him and they continued to say he had no chance at all and somebody named Simon who was the head of the Star News which was also a local paper then and he ran the city page.

He said, “If you get elected, I’ll put a banner headline across the city page.” So this was 15 years later, I was talking to Winfield and he went to his office and reached up and got that paper (laughter).

Hayes: So you had to run for election as a judge then?

Elkins: Oh yeah, still do, they’re still elected as it should be I think with the people’s court, as I say. Maybe not on a higher level, but I think a district judge ought to be elected. Keeps him a little closer to the people. You don’t want him having to hobnob with the governor to obtain his position. You want him down there dealing out justice and mercy on a day-to-day basis to the people that are going to vote for or against him. That’s much better I think. But there are a lot of stories about Winfield.

MRS. ELKINS: I just remember him talking about the Depression, keeping peanut butter and crackers in his file cabinet.

Elkins: Yeah, yeah, right. He did, he had a safe and inside the safe was a box of crackers and a jar of peanut butter (laughter), no money.

Hayes: And he lasted for a long time, he was a judge for a long, long time.

Elkins: When I started practicing, I was talking about how small the city was and how few offices and everything was downtown. Everything legal was in the courthouse and not all those buildings over there now, over in the red brick courthouse. In the red brick courthouse were, first of all, the courtrooms and the register of deeds and the clerk’s office.

But also you had an insurance office which now has a giant building all of its own, you had the Board of Education which has its giant building. You had the Welfare Department, which has an enormous building out on 16th Street. You had the North Carolina State Department of Revenue offices. They were upstairs. What else? I don’t know, but you had all that. Oh and Winfield, that’s what reminded me.

Winfield when I first met him, being a judge was just part-time. He was usually through by noon. So he had a private office over across the street in the Odd Fellows Building, but he was maneuvering around to try to get an office in the courthouse. They had a spare room over there and he thought he could go over there.

So just talking about how complex it is compared to what it used to be and how many more people are involved and on the public payroll. The percentage of the population was then quite small compared to what it is now. I can’t give you any figures, but not many people.

MRS. ELKINS: How many people were employed in the Register of Deeds, do you remember?

Elkins: That was a pretty busy office. There was Bob Black, Eddie McEachern, Inez Hopkins and a couple more, probably about five.

Hayes: And today?

Elkins: It’s not that many more. I would say there are 10 or 11. It has not expanded like say the Board of Education, which has gone from perhaps six people to perhaps 60 and the Welfare Department much greater than that.

Hayes: Right, right.

Elkins: The Sheriff’s Department, the D.A.’s Office, that’s another also. Well the D.A. didn't even have an office over there. He didn't have an office anywhere. He was a private attorney responsible for three counties, four counties… New Hanover County, Pender, Brunswick and Columbus.

Hayes: Than why would there be a D.A.? I mean the money must not have been that much. Was it just service or exposure?

Elkins: Well there’s always been somebody in charge of the prosecution; you have to have that, a public prosecutor.

Hayes: Right, but I mean why would someone if it’s a part-time job, why would you choose to do that I wonder.

Elkins: Well one of the reasons a great many people did things like that is they had just been through the Depression and there was nothing that would beat a government job that would pay you $100 every month no matter what.

Hayes: That’s right. Good point.

Elkins: And it was security and at the end, you had a pension that would then pay you $40 or $50 a month for the rest of your life and if you had a job like that and you had been through the Depression and you were getting on up there, you were worried that it might come back. People didn't give up those jobs.

Hayes: Different times.

Elkins: Yeah, different times.

Hayes: Mike what about some of the things there to give him a chance to be on a soapbox here. We always like to … some of this you covered.

Haas: One thing that we’ve asked others is that if you had grandchildren come to you now saying, “Grampa, should I be an attorney?” what would you say. How do you look at the future of the bar and the practice of law? Is it something you would recommend to people?

Elkins: Certainly not, I wouldn’t urgently recommend it. I think there are plenty of other things to do that are just as attractive and certainly there are a number of things that are less attractive now than they were when I began practicing. For one thing, I don’t want to idealize it, but it seemed to me at least, a little more cynical now (laughter), but at the time it seemed to me that the people who were admired and respected and spoken highly of were not necessarily the people who made the most money. That was just not true.

The two guys in Wilmington that, the three guys in Wilmington that probably made the most money, one of them was regarded as a leader. The other two were not. They were not. They were good at what they did and they made a lot of money, but they weren’t respected as much as people who made considerably less money.

Now I believe that that is one of the primary things that other lawyers look at in deciding who they respect, you know, subconsciously, deciding who they respect the most and would most like to be like, would most like to emulate. It’s more money oriented than it used to be. It’s intensely more competitive. Lawyers in their day had a lot more respect, they were more respected, they were expected to take the lead at any kind of public endeavor involving oh say public affairs of any kind. That’s not the case now and I don’t say it should be even, by not having a larger pool.

But in those days, they were in fact more likely to be educated and more likely to be willing to stand up and speak. It’s another thing quite aside, quite aside, but when I was growing up, children were shy. There were not many children who were not shy. Now almost no children are shy, you notice that? (Laughter) Every child you see, you know, “Janie, would you play the piano?” Sure, she goes and plays the piano, she doesn’t get flustered. She doesn’t get upset.

The same way with show and tell and making speeches and whatnot. But in those days, a lot of people just did not want to step up in front of a crowd and say anything, even when they were fully grown and running a business, had a family and 40 years old, they didn't want to do it.

Hayes: But they knew a lawyer could do that so you think it became a spokesperson of some sort. That makes sense. Perhaps today they might still want the lawyer, but they would charge by the hour to do that (laughter).

Elkins: It’s more of a trade now than it was. It’s more of a money getting activity that it was and for that reason to me, less attractive.

Hayes: Do you still see it as a helping profession? That you’re helping people. I mean that’s kind of the mythology of being a lawyer.

Elkins: No, no, it’s still real enough and maybe it never was really as widespread as they would have it, but they’re still plenty of them today. There are people who take on causes; Jim Morgan has recently finished a couple of very praiseworthy efforts. There are others around and I think probably always have been.

But there again, that doesn’t put any money at all in Jim’s pocket and with those you base their status on that, it didn't give them any more status, and it’s not that they wouldn't desire him a day or two later. But two or three years later, when he still doesn’t have all that money, then they might not respect him as much as they would have had he had he money that he would have earned doing something else. It’s sort of a permanent thing. So.

Hayes: Well, thank you very much both of you for this interview. Appreciate it very much.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign