On September 1, 1964, Harold Tharrington and Wade Smith, classmates at UNC-Chapel Hill, opened the doors of their new law firm. They welcomed any client who walked in, paying or not. They survived, soon prospered, and in the next few years they were joined by Wade’s brother, Roger, and by Wade Hargrove.
The firm became Tharrington, Smith & Hargrove and began developing its eclectic collection of specialties. Tharrington eased into a family law practice; the Smiths focused on criminal defense; and Hargrove started to build a radio/television practice. Though these became the best known parts of the firm’s work, the lawyers continued to accept any kind of case that arose.
By 1985, when the firm moved to its former location at 209 Fayetteville Street, there were a dozen lawyers on hand and a new specialty, education law. When George Rogister joined the firm, he brought his client, the Wake County Board of Education, followed soon by the North Carolina School Boards Association, and over time, the Boards for Edgecombe, Durham, Person, Hertford and numerous other North Carolina counties.
By the late 1980s the firm had passed 30 lawyers. The Smiths were the best known criminal defense lawyers in the state, their reputation fueled by high profile cases such as the defenses of Jeffrey MacDonald and Lieutenant Governor Jimmy Green. Hargrove had built a sophisticated communications practice, listing the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters and the National Organization of ABC-TV Affiliates among his clients. Tharrington’s family law practice expanded to one of the best known in the state and Rogister, who chaired the National Council of School Attorneys, established one of the premiere education law practices in the country.
The early 1990s were a time of transition. Harold Tharrington retired, but Carlyn Poole, Jaye Meyer and others continued to grow a family law practice that became the largest and most respected in the state. Wade Hargrove moved to another firm with his communications practice. Rogister passed away in 1995, but Ann Majestic and others built on his foundation to create one of the largest and best regarded education law practices in the country. Majestic, like Rogister, chaired the National Council of School Attorneys for a time, and continued to lead the growing number of attorneys and expanding list of clients within the education section until she passed away in August of 2014. In the days following her death, the North Carolina Bar Association Education Section Council voted unanimously to recognize Majestic’s legacy of thoughtful legal analysis and dedication to the firm’s public school clients by renaming its annual distinguished service award in her honor.
For the last twenty years, Tharrington Smith has remained a firm with around three dozen lawyers, purposely choosing to retain a size that allows sufficient support for all levels of cases while still retaining collegiality. Unlike many other Raleigh firms, it has resisted merger into larger national or regional firms. The best known specialties – criminal defense, education, and family law – remain at the core of the firm’s practice, but Tharrington Smith has become well known in such areas as civil litigation, business law, voting rights, regulatory law, local government and construction. The firm moved to its present location in the Wells Fargo building at 150 Fayetteville Street in 2013.