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Interview with Wallace Murchisozn, April 26, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Wallace Murchisozn, April 26, 2002
April 26, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Murchison, Wallace Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Haas, Michael Date of Interview:  4/26/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length:  60 minutes


We are interviewing today Mr. Wallace Murchison, an attorney here in Wilmington, North Carolina. I am Mike Haas, an attorney, and I am also here with Sherman Hayes, the librarian of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Haas: Mr. Murchison, we certainly thank you for meeting with us today and we would first ask you, if you would just tell us a little bit about growing up here in Wilmington and what your education was before going to law school.

Murchison: Okay, well…I guess the place to start would be when I was born. It was October 27, 1919. I was born in Richmond, Virginia where my father was practicing medicine for two to three years after getting out of med school and internship and so on. I was born on my mother’s birthday, which was kind of interesting, October 27, she was 26 years old.

Then my father decided to move to Wilmington, which was his hometown and his wife’s hometown. So in he early 20’s, we moved here and I lived on Third Street between Ann and Nunn for a great many years. My family lived there until they died. My mother and father died in the same house and they lived to be in their 90’s. So I grew up there.

I went to Tileston School, which is now the Roman Catholic school at St. Mary’s Church. Then I went to New Hanover High School. I could ride my bike to school; it was that close and the traffic wasn’t as bad as it is now. Then I went…actually I didn't finish at New Hanover High School. My last year I went to a prep school in Connecticut called South Kent School for two years. Then I went to Princeton, graduated there in ’41 and immediately that fall went to law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Of course December ’41, you know what happened. Then I went to, I stayed at law school until I joined the Navy in February of ’43 and was in the Navy for a couple of years and got out in ’45, went back to Carolina to finish law school and then I went…I passed my bar exam and got my license in ’46.

Then I decided to take an extra year of law at Harvard and got an LLM degree up there in ’47. Best thing hat happened to me at Harvard was I met my wife who was a senior at Wellesley College right near Boston. So we got married in ’48 and I came back here and practiced law entirely in Wilmington ever since that day until I retired.

Haas: Just one question I had about your family. You mentioned about your father being an M.D. Did he attend the University of Virginia Medical School at all or is that why he was in Richmond?

Murchison: No, he went to Carolina for undergrad and Johns Hopkins for his med school. Then he interned up in Detroit and I think there was some doctor in Richmond that offered him a position and that was maybe the best offer he had so he went there. But it didn't work out too well and the attraction of coming to his hometown where his parents were and my where mother’s parents were.

Hayes: What was your mother’s maiden name?

Murchison: Her maiden name was Carmichael, Mae Carmichael and she married my father, David Reed Murchison, I think in 1917 and they had five children of which I was the second. The oldest was a boy, David, then Wallace, my sister Lulie, now Eggleston, my brother William and my brother John.

Hayes: Now the Murchison name goes way back on lots and lots of buildings. Were you connected to all that? I think they were bankers is what I thought they were. I didn't realize they were doctors too.

Haas: I found a hardware store in the 1890’s (laughter).

Murchison: Right…there were Murchisons here from the 1870’s or so. They really came from up around Fayetteville, NC. But there were a couple of Murchisons that were instrumental in forming the Murchison National Bank and the building which is still there at Front and Chestnut was owned by that bank. It was for years called the Murchison Building.

Neither of those two were my direct ancestor, but they were brothers of my ancestors and then my grandfather, J. Williams Murchison, came here from up in the Fayetteville area and went into the wholesale hardware business called J. W. Murchison Company, which continued to do well in this area for a great many years and then went more and more into sports equipment, fishing tackle, that kind of thing.

My brother David ran that business. My brother John followed him and John was the president when it was sold some years ago. There is a building at Third and Ann that you probably have noticed, the Murchison home. My family lived halfway up the block from that building. That building was built by my great-great-grandfather’s brother, David Reed Murchison, same name as my father. He was in business here and died quite young, around 1882, I’d say, leaving one child, a wife and one child.

Hayes: That’s the building that they’re remodeling now, right, and we had a recent tour, both of us went through that.

Haas: That’s where I met Michael who gave us information on how to get a hold of you (laughter).

Hayes: (Laughter) You can’t hide …see. That was a wonderful, wonderful…

Murchison: That physician and his wife are doing a great job of putting the building back like it was, interesting building, built themselves a nice apartment on the third floor.

Hayes: One of the questions that we always ask as we start to get into your life skill experiences, if your dad was a doctor, what was triggering law? You might have thought of medicine, but why were you …

Murchison: It’s interesting that none of the five children became doctors and of the 14 grandchildren, only one, my daughter, my youngest child, Susan, became a physician. I don’t know why I went into law. It was just something that appealed to me and there I was.

Haas: Going to Princeton must have been quite an experience I would think. Do you have any comments about your time at Princeton? Was it a great place to be or a school that you really think about often?

Murchison: Yes, I certainly do. I think I received an excellent education at Princeton. It’s a fine college. Of course, in my day, there were just males there, now its co-ed. But it hasn’t grown all that much in terms of size of the student body. It does not have a law school so I couldn't have gone there if I wanted to.

But my class, the class of ’41, has been a rather close-knit group because of the war experience that we all shared and we have had…Princeton is great on the reunions. People come back year and year in June to reunions. Well I usually have gone to every fifth year, but then our class has had what we call mini-reunions, which means whoever wants to join goes to some resort and we get together for a long weekend and have a lot of fun.

Haas: Oh, that’s terrific. What about your law school experience? How big was Chapel Hill as far as a law school was when you were attending?

Murchison: I can’t remember the numbers, but it was not very big and of course, after the war started, December ’41, the law school dwindled down until it was a shadow of its former self and immediately when the war ended, everybody came there on the GI Bill and it grew tremendously.

Haas: Were there women in law school with you at that time or not?

Murchison: Yes, there were a few including Margaret, she’s now Margaret Haywood, who was Margaret Fonvielle from the Wilmington Fonvielles.

Haas: Right.

Hayes: Right, we’re hoping to talk with her. She’s still going strong.

Murchison: Yes, very good.

Hayes: She’s on our list because her nephew, Chris Fonvielle, you probably know Chris is out at the university in History.

Murchison: Margaret…right, she was in the law school about the same time I was and she moved to Wilmington and married Alec Fonvielle. She was on the City Council for a while and she and Alec split up and she married Mr. Haywood, Ted Haywood. He died and she’s still living right here. I think she’d be glad to talk to you.

Haas: In law school, was the Socratic method used? Was the case study method the usual way?

Murchison: Oh yea.

Haas: And do you remember anything about the subjects that you studied in law school, anything that was unusual or different from contracts and torts, property?

Murchison: I think I took the usual courses. I worked on the Law Review. I enjoyed it. Unlike some people who go to law school and find that study is boring and they can’t really stand it, so they leave, I enjoyed it (laughter). I thought it was fun.

Hayes: Were there important professors that you still remember that made a difference at that school?

Murchison: Yes, we had I thought some very fine professors. I think the dean at the time was VanEcky and then there was Dean Widick and Dean Henry Brandiss. I mean I’ve known deans, I’m not talking that they were all deans while I was there, but over the years, you know, they change.

And one of the professors was interesting. Albert Coates, C-O-A-T-E-S, was a professor there, mostly in criminal law and few other subjects, but he founded the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill, which was at that time a rather unique venture. He felt like it should be part of the law school, but it was really a separate brainchild of his and that Institute has done a lot to help the cities, counties, state government by training people in the jobs that they were doing. It was his and his wife’s dream and they stuck with it as long as they lived and I think it’s been a great institution, part of the University.

Haas: During law school, did you work at all or did you work for any attorneys at that point?

Murchison: I don’t think so. I was pushing to get through, you know, because of the war going on. So I went in the summer.

Hayes: But you didn't finish before you went into the Navy?

Murchison: I got about half way and then went into the Navy and came back, and had a little over a year, finished in June of ’46.

Hayes: And what was the mood if the ward had started and people were just drifting away, did that create kind of unusual world there in Chapel Hill or was it just business there as usual?

Murchison: I think the student body shrunk and certainly the law school did, but they also brought in military people for training. They had, I think the Air Force, the Navy, others were using the facilities so, it wasn’t a vacant town by any means. When I went in the Navy, I was fortunate to get a commission as an ensign without having to go through all the boot camp and that sort of thing.

They sent me to Harvard for six months to train in communications so our school up there was on the campus using up, staying in the dorms and all that sort of thing.

Hayes: That’s interesting, but they didn't consider sending you in to say the legal services because you hadn’t finished, I’m just saying, or was the Navy never that smart to figure out you could have been a good lawyer for the Navy.

Murchison: I finished. No, I wasn’t a lawyer and they wouldn’t consider, I don’t think.

Haas: Do you want to talk at all about the Navy experience or has that already been done?

Hayes: No, I mean that’s fine if you want to tell us anything about that, but we’re kind of concentrating on the legal aspect of it. I guess the real question would be after you got done with your service, you were ready to come back and get going again in the law. You hadn’t changed your mind about … the law was where you were still headed, right?

Murchison: One of my reasons for going to Harvard Law was I was thinking maybe I would like to teach law and some additional degree would be important in that. The other reason is because I had GI Bill benefits and I knew that if I went up there, I was bound to meet my wife (laughter). Then after studying there for the year and all I decided to come back home and open an office for solo practice.

As a matter of fact I went to talk to then Secretary of the Army, Kenneth Royal, who was a Goldsboro, NC native in Washington. I knew he had practiced working law up north, I was talking to him and he was kind of enough to see me and talk about the future and so forth and he said, “I recommend you go back home and practice law. Then if you decide you must leave, go to a big city or something, you can do it.” This was his advice and I guess I took it.

Hayes: You might ask him about the bar exam.

Haas: Yes, but before that, a question about the LLM. Was it in a particular area or was this a general LLM, like today we think of an LLM in tax or international law?

Murchison: It wasn’t so limited at the time, but I did take some tax courses because that tended to be more what I did in the practice, corporate and taxes.

Hayes: So you have the law degree from Chapel Hill and what is an LLM, perhaps people listening don’t know, what, is that an additional advance…

Murchison: It’s like a Master’s Degree, it’s one year in addition to your regular law.

Hayes: Well, it’s pretty unusual at the time. Were there lots of people in that program?

Murchison: No, it wasn’t all that large. I think it had become more popular, like the MBA has been more popular in the business field.

Haas: The bar exam here in North Carolina, can you tell us a little bit about that, how was it conducted? And where?

Murchison: At that time, it was an annual exam in August and it was conducted in Raleigh, I think, maybe in the legislative building I’ve forgotten, but it was a written exam over I think three days, two or three days. You didn’t know until some weeks whether you passed it.

Haas: Was there any sort of preparation for the exam?

Murchison: I don’t remember that. I guess I stayed at law school after graduating in ’46 and studied for the exam, but I don’t think I took the bar cram course that these schools had developed for that purpose.

Haas: Right, and did you have any sort of preceptorship or any study with attorneys? Was anything like that required before you entered the bar here?

Murchison: No, I don’t think it is now. People have talked about following the medical example and having internships but it doesn’t happen in North Carolina.

Haas: Did the results come by mail, was that how you found out if you had passed or how did you find out? Do you remember?

Murchison: I don’t remember that. I guess they probably mailed it to you. As you probably know, there was no grade. You just passed or you failed. It made a great deal of difference, which it was.

Haas: And today, you know, they will tell people if they failed, why they failed, whereas in our day, they didn't do that. You either passed or failed. You didn't know why you failed (laughter). Do you want to talk a little bit about your early legal practice then? What sort of cases would, you said you were in a fellow practice, would you take almost anything that walked in the door or did you have particular areas?

Murchison: We used to say that we would take anything as long as the fee was at least $5.00 (laughter).

Hayes: Well give us a sense; you knew the community because you’d grown up here, but you came back in ’48, right, was that about right?


Hayes: What’s the flavor of the town in ’47? I mean it had been a boomtown as far as the war, but in ’47 it was very different.

Murchison: The shipyard and the military bases had made a tremendous change in Wilmington with the temporary growth, but after the shipyard closed down and the military closed some of the bases like Camp Davis, it sort of went back to the old days, the Atlantic Coastline being the major employer. That continued until they left, which I think was ’55. It was not easy to open a practice by yourself and build up a business. I was in what was called the Odd Fellows Building.

It wasn’t because of the occupants. It was because of the…what do you call it? Fraternal order or something, it was at the corner of Third and Princess, there’s a bank building now. There’s about a three-story red brick building and there were a number of lawyers in there and I had a tiny little office not any bigger than from here to front door which must be about 20 feet and I cut it in half and had a secretary and I was in the back. That was all I could afford.

I think my first six months I grossed $1000 out of which I had to pay expenses (laughter). But I continued to practice solo, doing most anything that came along, real estate, criminal, you know, wills, estate planning.

Hayes: How many lawyers were in town? I mean how many were you competing against?

Murchison: I have no idea. I would say, I’d have to take a wild guess, I’d say probably 50 to 70, but I don’t really know.

Hayes: That’s exactly right, that is exactly right. Another interviewee, he said there were about 65 on the bar at that particular time and …did you have a sense that your name at least had you as an accepted part of the community? I mean they at least knew the Murchison name or didn't it matter because it didn't bring any business in (laughter).

Murchison: Except for my own family (laughter). You couldn’t count on any business because of my name though. They say if you count on your friends being your clients, you better quit and go elsewhere.

Haas: Did the local bar have any women besides, I guess, Mrs. Fonvielle was an attorney here then, but was she the only one or were there others?

Murchison: That was interesting…very few women, very few women, one that’s sort of interesting. There was a Professor H. Edmond Rogers who ran a law school here and some of our rather distinguished members of the bar graduated from his law school. He had come down here from Pennsylvania and his wife was known as Mrs. Rogers (laughter) and they had no children. They were quite a pair. She was a lawyer and they did some practice in addition to teaching.

Hayes: Well, when you say “quite a pair,” what do you mean by quite a pair, just characters?

Murchison: Let me give you an example.

Hayes: All right, good.

Murchison: (Laughter) They would ride in the car with Mr. Rogers up front driving and Mrs. Rogers riding in the back (laughter) and telling him what to do and it was said that one time, a friend or a lawyer maybe was in the front seat with Mr. Rogers and driving along and Mrs. Rogers in the back and she was giggling, this, that and the other and Mr. Rogers turned to his friend and said, “Never marry a lawyer” (laughter). They were really characters. And she’s the first woman that I remember meeting that was an attorney.

Haas: So that law school though was rather prominent here in town I take it at the time.

Murchison: Yeah it went on for a good many years and I’m sure they didn't have more than three or four students at the time, but I think Aaron Goldberg, you probably heard of him…Jimmy Swailes I believe went there. Jimmy became president of the North Carolina State Bar, Bill Rhodes probably; a number of people got their law degree through that kind of study.

Hayes: Interesting. When did it die out then as a school, in the ‘50s?

Murchison: I sort of think that the law was changed so that you couldn’t, this was equivalent to studying with a lawyer, which up until a certain time was a permissible way to get your license. The state law changed so that could no longer be done. You had to go to a regular law school.

Haas: You know, Virginia still allows you to study with an attorney.

Murchison: Really?

Haas: Only about one a year take the bar exam after doing it, one or two a year.

Murchison: I’m amazed it’s still going.

Haas: Do you want to tell us about any of your early cases? Are there any ones that come to mind that you think would be interesting for people to know about?

Murchison: No, I can’t remember any that stand out.

Haas: Any members of the bar that you found interesting when you first started the practice of law, any that taught you, as older attorneys here that took you under their wing or anything?

Murchison: Well, I remember that right across the hall from me, first floor of this Odd Fellows Building, was Mr. Marsden Bellamy who was quite a bit older than I, but he was running in his law office a small Building and Loan association called The Citizens Building and Loan and he had a lady there, Miss Catherine Alexander, who really ran the thing and people would come in every week, deposit a little bit of money in their accounts and then they’d make loans and had a Board of Directors and later became a part of People’s. It was many years later merged into People’s.

Anyway, he was a fine, honest lawyer. Practically all of his work was in real estate. He had been County Attorney though and had been Bellamys as lawyers way back, but I remember he had a wonderful memory. You’d run him some legal question, “Yeah, that was decided in Smith versus Jones,” such and such number of the North Carolina Supreme Court (laughter). Quite amazing.

Haas: Whatever happened to him?

Murchison: Well, he continued in this building and practiced until he was quite old. He was an ardent Carolina fan and I remember one trip we went up to Chapel Hill in the winter for basketball games, ran into an ice storm, had to spend the night in the hotel in Raleigh and he went right along with it with all the other younger people did.

But one thing that he taught me was he would say about some issue, “Well it’s something that they have a legal right to do, but it isn’t the moral thing to do.” And this was something that you don’t hear too much in this day. Addison Hewlett was in that building; Colonel McClelland later became the mayor.

Hayes: Now Addison Hewlett, is that the one that’s tied to the University or was that his son hat was tied, I know we have a Hewlett…?

Murchison: That’s Addison Hewlett about whom I’m speaking. He was a solo practitioner and he then went into politics, when into legislature and was instrumental in getting support for the university. His father had been a very fine citizen and chairman of the Board of County Commissioners for many years. His name was Addison Hewlett, so there were two of them. Then Judge Winfield Smith had an office in our building, Bill Rhodes, Solomon Sternberger, we had an interesting crowd.

Haas: Would you wind up meeting other attorneys socially? I mean would you go to lunch together? Where there things that you did hat sort of brought the bar together in addition to the bar meetings?

Murchison: Well, the young lawyers at one time started a pattern of going to lunch together I think on maybe a Thursday and we agreed that at each lunch, somebody would talk about some subject that would be of educational value and so for… I don’t know how long, maybe two to three years.

I don’t know exactly how long it kept up, but people would volunteer to teach their fellows and we rather enjoyed that. This was…you see with the influx of the younger lawyers coming in after the war, the bar expanded quite a bit.

Hayes: I find it always interesting that in one day you can be arguing against a lawyer across the way and then you’re going to the lunch the next day. How do you reconcile kind of the competitiveness at the same time collegiality?

Murchison: (Laughter) I don’t have to reconcile it, it’s just there. We’re all in the same profession, we’re interested in the same issues and questions and the techniques of practice and how to do a good job for our clients. We’re advocates for our clients.

Hayes: But it’s not personal if you lose the case with another lawyer. I think that’s the ….

Murchison: No, you can’t take it personally. You lose a case, it’s a crushing defeat at the time, but you usually get over it. And actually the truth of the matter is, as you probably know, I know Mike must know, the largest percentage of cases in the courts are not settled by trial. They are settled by compromise. I would say, what, 80%?

Haas: Probably, yes sir.

Murchison: Or more. The cases are filed, you have an attorney brought into defend and after a while, they begin to see that it might be better to settle this case. Frequently it’s right when they have to come to the courthouse to try it. That’s when it gets tight. Or in the middle of the trial or with the jury out deliberating and nobody knows how they’re going to come out, “Hey, let’s get together and see if we can settle this thing.” And the judges were very helpful. They wanted to see them settled.

Hayes: That’s right. The point is it’s a system to get justice, not necessarily to have a trial.

Murchison: You cannot try all those cases. And the advantage of having lawyers on both sides, they can disassociate themselves from their emotion the client feels and they are the independents who see well my client has a good case in some respects, but I see that the other side has something too. Maybe there’s some common ground here.

Haas: Any of the judges of the day that you remember specifically as being interesting to talk about?

Murchison: We had some fine judges. At the lower level, which was then called the Recorder’s Court, Judge Winfield Smith was a character. I don’t know whether you’ve heard about him? H. Winfield Smith, I think he was a product of the Roger’s Law School. He was remarkable because he’d get up on the bench and, of course this was largely the criminal cases, the traffic and domestic and all that sort of thing and the police would come in and tell their story and the defendant would tell his story and the judge would have to make a decision, there was no jury.

He would come out with his decision, but he would first tell if it was going to be for the defendant, he would tell the police what a fine job they were doing. He was sure they were exactly right in pursuing this matter. Then he’d decide for the other (laughter). Of if he was going to convict, he would say something nice about the defense. He was a consummate judge and politician and he was reelected forever (laughter).

Now in Superior Court, we had some excellent judges. You probably have heard that we still have a traveling group of Superior Court judges. They go all over the eastern part of the state and hold court in one county for six months, one district and so on. Judge Burney was a former D.A. and a fine judge. He was the local Superior Court judge, but he was gone a lot of the time circulating around …

Hayes: What was his first name? This is not John Burney, this is John Burney’s father.

Murchison: Yeah, but John is John Jr. There were some find judges that later went on to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Clifton Moore from Burgaw, Joshua James who is my contemporary and went on to become a Superior Court Judge.

Hayes: Did you ever have any desire to go the district attorney or the judge route yourself? Did you consider that a possibility?

Murchison: Not really. At one point, Cisero Yow was a friend of mine and he was the prosecuting attorney, a D.A., we called it, in the Recorder’s Court with Judge Smith, maybe some later ones, and he made me an assistant to him for a short time, but I was not a judge, I was an assistant solicitor.

Haas: How could you rate the civility among the bar members, the attorneys? Was it a pretty collegial place to work?

Murchison: I think so, yeah.

Hayes: And it stayed that way through your career? You felt it continues today?

Murchison: I believe so. I don’t know. Of course I haven’t been active in practice since ’95 so who knows. But you ask about judges, maybe I better go back for a minute and tell you and tell you sort of the way my firm developed. I started off solo in ’47 and in 1955, Oliver Carter who was practicing solo here, and I formed a firm, Carter and Murchison. He was older than I. His son is Jimmy Carter who’s still practicing here. Then we moved over from the old Odd Fellows Building to the Carolina Power and Light Building at 4th and Chestnut. The building is still there, owned by the county. We had an office there.

Then after some few years, we took in a partner, Jim Fox, so it became Carter, Murchison and Fox. And after 25 years of practice involving me and Jim Fox and other lawyers, he was named as U.S. District Judge so he became and still is a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. He’s now in what they call ‘senior status’ meaning he’s retired, but he can hold as much court as he wants and as much court as they want him to hold and I think he’s going practically full time.

So it was Carter, Murchison and Fox and then later Carter, Murchison, Fox and Newton and then it changed names and it’s now still going with my son, Michael Murchison as the only lawyer in the firm with the name and it’s Murchison, Taylor and Gibson. For a good many years, it has been about eight to ten lawyers and I think it’s still ten now.

Haas: What was the motivation to get bigger? What could you do if you were combined that you couldn’t do individually?

Murchison: That’s a good question. I think the answer is very clear. The law is simply just too complex and too big for one person to know enough to be competent in all areas. You must have specialization, which the doctors learned long ago and we finally caught on. So by having a larger firm, you could have individual lawyers who were specializing in certain things and you can keep up with the law. You have to go to institutes to be trained every year and brought up to date.

They used to say that if the legislature is in session in law, they’re liable to repeal everything you know about the law (laughter). We found this was true. Of course in later years, there was a formal specialization program by which you would become a specialist in an area and you could advertise that fact. I never did that, but a lot of them do it today.

Hayes: What did you yourself start to emphasize in your own work? As you got a bigger group, what became your own specialty?

Murchison: Well, I think I might have mentioned earlier that I tended to work in the tax field for a couple of reasons: one, I had some good courses in it and second, I didn't think there was anybody in Wilmington who was trying to keep up with it when I started out so it seemed to be a good niche for me and I felt that it was important to people whether they were paying more taxes or less taxes (laughter).

So there was an opportunity there and that field, that plus corporations and estates and trusts and wills, that general field is still, I say, the larger part of the present firm’s business. There are more of the firm’s lawyers in that field than the other two fields, which are real estate and the trial litigation.

Hayes: And they’re interrelated too, the estate and the tax and the real estate. I mean they’re all connected, one affects the other. So would a normal practice then be to have a series of clients who would stay with your firm through a whole set of events, business events?

Murchison: Yes, if you were in the civil practice of whatever type, not criminal cases, if you were in civil practice, you tended to acquire business clients, corporations that would continue to use your firm for many years at least as long as you didn't make a mess of things. But this was the pattern. Some of the larger corporations that were moving into Wilmington had their own corporate staffs, but they still used the local firms for some purposes.

Hayes: So who were some of your key clients over the years that you can mention that we would recognize?

Murchison: I don’t know that I can list any that would be significant enough. We had a rather broad variety and of course, being in estate planning, that involved the individuals and so I had a lot of individual clients also.

Haas: Did you end up having any other involvement in politics or in other positions that would be elected or local bar association president or anything like that that you’d tell us about?

Murchison: I never ran for any political office. I was president of the local bar and was a member of the Board of Directors or Board of Governors whatever of the North Carolina Bar Association. I was active in civic affairs; I was a volunteer and president of a number of organizations like the United Way and so on.

Hayes: Did you find that people came to you as a lawyer thinking that you would want to be involved? In other words, the standard response is, “He’s a lawyer so be sure to ask him to be on this board or that board,” or did you pick your own kind of interest to follow?

Murchison: I think it worked both ways. Many boards felt like they ought to have at least one lawyer on there to kind of keep an eye on the legal side of their operations, but also certain things I was interested in like the historic preservation and well, any number of different organizations.

Recently I’ve been on the Bellamy Mansion board and was one of the founders of the Historic Wilmington Foundation. My son has been interested in that and has been president. I’m on the board of Plantation Village, which is the retirement community near here. I’ve just been in a lot of different things. My interest was in the community and seeing things develop in a positive way.

I’ve always been interested in politics in terms of supporting political figures. I’ve been a Democrat forever (laughter).

Hayes: Been times when that was good and times when it wasn’t so good (laughter). I think we’ve got some ending questions, more philosophical. Go ahead.

Haas: Have you seen changes throughout your long career in the practice of law and the local bar that you think are worth noting? How would you sum up your time in the bar here? Certainly you’ve had a very varied and very distinguished career.

Murchison: Well, I certainly have enjoyed it. I love the practice of law and the interaction with people and having to use my brain to try to solve problems and work involving writing and rewriting, that sort of thing, so it’s very interesting to me.

The practice of law, the big change that I’ve seen and you’ve seen is the question of advertising and promotion of law firms and lawyers. It used to be that you were there if people wanted to come and employ you, but you didn't go out and seek the work and that’s greatly changed now with advertising on T.V. and everywhere else. That’s the main trend that I’ve seen that’s been new.

Haas: If a grandchild came to you and said, “Grampa, should I become an attorney,” would you recommend it?

Murchison: Yes, I would. I think it’s a fulfilling career. One thing, you have the opportunity to be on your own. You can work for yourself and work for your clients. You’re not necessarily in a big corporation that controls your life and cuts you off whenever they want. You have in practice, the individual practice or in a firm practice; you have a fairly good number of bases so to speak. One client doesn’t like you; maybe there are others that do. It’s not one person that can give you the axe. That has an independence that appeals to a lot of people.

Hayes: That’s exactly right.

Haas: Do you have any predictions for the future?

Murchison: Yes, I do. It’ll come (laughter). There will always be a need for lawyers and I hope that the profession will merit and continue to merit the confidence and the place in our society that I think it must have for us to operate as a Democratic republic.

Haas: Very good.

Hayes: Thank you.

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