Wade M. Smith of Raleigh is the 2008 recipient of the North Carolina Bar Association’s H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award. The award was presented during the President’s Luncheon at the NCBA Annual Meeting in Atlantic Beach.
Proposed by the NCBA Professionalism Committee and adopted by the Board of Governors in 2006, the award recognizes attorneys who demonstrate the “Renaissance Lawyer” qualities embodied by Judge McKnight, who died in 2004 while serving on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of N.C.
The professionalism Committee initiated the establishment of this award in an effort to recognize those North Carolina attorneys whose trustworthiness, respectful and courteous treatment of all people, enthusiasm for intellectual achievement and commitment to excellence in work, and service to the profession and community, inspire others.
Bill Womble Jr. and Erna A. P. Womble, who co-chair the Professionalism Committee’s McKnight Award Subcommittee, joined NCBA President Janet Ward Black in presenting the award.
Smith’s “Renaissance” qualities are widely known. He is an accomplished musician, thespian and scholar, long noted for his athletic achievements and commitment to his church and community.
A former recipient of the Wake County Bar’s Joseph Branch Professionalism Award, Smith embodies the highest ideals of professionalism at every turn, as evidenced by his exemplary conduct in performance of his duties as defense counsel in the recent matter involving members of the Duke lacrosse team.
“One need look no further than the firestorm surrounding the ‘Duke lacrosse case,’ as it is universally known, to see Wade Smith at his personal and professional best,” the presentation noted. “Amidst the glare of an international spotlight, Wade Smith stood strong and steady. He shouldered the shared burden of uncertainty with hard work, dignity and determination; and he persevered, knowing, and trusting, that justice would ultimately prevail.”
Smith was honored this spring by the NCBA’s Criminal Justice Section as the initial recipient of a new award that will recognize distinguished defense attorneys. The award will also be named in honor of Smith.
A native of Albemarle, Smith received his undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill 1660 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.
A distinguished member of the bar throughout his career, Smith has served as president of the Wake County Bar Association and the 10th Judicial District Bar, the Wake County Academy of Criminal Trial Lawyers and the General Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. He served 10 years in the General Assembly and previously chaired the Democratic Party.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter S. Gilchrist III was the initial recipient of the award. Charlotte lawyer E. Osborne “Ozzie” Ayscue Jr., past-president of the NCBA, received the award last year.
Reprinted with permission from the North Carolina State Bar.