The Criminal Justice Section of the North Carolina Bar Association held its first awards banquet on Thursday evening, May 15, at the Omni Hotel in Charlotte. The event featured presentation of newly established section awards that will honor a prosecutor and a defense attorney whose careers exemplify the highest ideals of the profession. The awards have been named in honor of the initial recipients, District Attorney Peter Gilchrist of Mecklenburg County and attorney Wade M. Smith of Raleigh.
Kevin P. Tully, Mecklenburg County public defender, presented the first Peter S. Gilchrist III Award. C. Colon Willoughby Jr., Wake County district attorney, presented the inaugural Wade M. Smith Award.
Greensboro attorney Kearns Davis, section chair, presided over the festivities, which featured a strong outpouring of support for both honorees. Attendees included Peg Dorer, director of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, Smith’s brother and longtime Tharrington Smith law partner Roger Smith, and NCBA Executive Director Allan Head.
The honorees share a similar distinction in regard to the H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award which was established in 2006 by the NCBA Foundation’s Professionalism Committee. Gilchrist was the initial recipient of this honor while Smith will become the third person to receive the award at this year’s NCBA Annual Meeting.
Gilchrist has served as district attorney for Mecklenburg County since 1975. A native of Charlotte, he earned his bachelor’s degree in English in 1962 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his law degree from the Duke University School of Law in 1965.
An American College of Trial Lawyers Fellow, Gilchrist is a former president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. He has devoted countless hours enhancing and strengthening the court systems in his home county, throughout North Carolina and nationally.
Wade Smith is a native of Albemarle. He received his undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1960 and graduated from the UNC School of Law in 1963. He served as clerk to Judge Carlisle W. Higgins of the N.C. Supreme Court before joining J. Harold Tharrington in the formation of Tharrington Smith on Sept. 1, 1964.
An esteemed trial lawyer throughout his career, Smith is a former legislator and past president of the Wake County Bar Association. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Criminal Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers. He is a past president of the Wake County Bar Association and former recipient of its Joseph Branch Professionalism Award.