Roy W. Davis, Jr.
He was an accomplished attorney, family man, and role model
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 10, 2015) – Roy W. Davis, Jr., who died at his home Sunday, was one of the most highly regarded attorneys in North Carolina. He was 85.
Davis, a litigator respected and regarded throughout North Carolina, was a senior principal with Van Winkle, Buck, Wall, Starnes and Davis, PA, where he practiced for nearly 55 years.
"Roy loved the practice of law and has provided generations of attorneys with the highest example of professionalism and ethics. In a field where one must be adversarial and competitive, there is no one in my experience who has had such a successful trial practice and yet earned almost unanimous respect and friendship of all members of the bar," said Philip J. Smith, president of the firm. "His skill, integrity and civility were omnipresent. Roy was a superb mentor of which I was the fortunate beneficiary, along with many others. His wise guidance and direction always made me a better lawyer. I will miss Roy, and the legal profession will miss Roy. However, his legacy will be a guiding light for future generations to come."
Davis litigated civil cases in federal and state courts since he joined the Van Winkle Law Firm in 1960. His practice covered a broad spectrum of cases including claims involving personal injury, professional malpractice, business and employment, wills and estate litigation, commercial matters, and declaratory judgment actions.
"I probably and thankfully spent more time visiting with Roy over things that had little to nothing to do with the cases we were working on," said Allan R. Tarleton, a senior principal of the firm. "Generally, that meant dropping by his office on the fourth floor of our building, many times on a Saturday morning, and sitting across from Roy at his huge partner's desk among a clutter of files and boxes and accumulated journals trying to impress the other with our knowledge of literature, sports, or music; swapping lies about other lawyers and judges; retelling the same stories we'd adopted as our own; or trying to remember the names of younger and older lawyers who had moved on. He always had time for those drop-ins. I'll miss them."
Throughout the last five decades, Davis served on various legal boards and committees. He was a past president of the North Carolina State Bar, past vice-president of the North Carolina Bar Association, a past member of the ABA House of Delegates, and was a member of the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners. Davis is also a past president of the 28th Judicial District Bar, where he was honored with the Bar's Centennial award in 2003.
In 2009, Davis was the recipient of the Chief Justice's Professionalism Award given by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. The award is "presented annually to an individual or organization whose contributions have demonstrated the highest commitment to genuine professionalism and the highest standards of legal ethics." Davis was also awarded the North Carolina State Bar John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award in 2013 for his "exemplary service to the legal profession."
Carleton Metcalf, a senior Van Winkle principal, said, "Roy understood that the law is not a game that lawyers and judges play, but a system on which people-real people-depend for justice. His grasp of the legal principles and facts in a case was strong and sure, while his interactions with clients, witnesses and even opposing parties were courteous and respectful. A mentor of nearly unequaled proportions, the notion that all people in a case, regardless of position, should be treated with dignity was not a hollow platitude for Roy; it was a way of life for him, and a standard to which his example called each lawyer who came into contact with him to aspire."
In addition to his service to the bar, Davis was also active with Pisgah Legal Services, serving on the board as President, and more recently as co-chair of a capital campaign to raise money for adequate office facilities. Pisgah Legal Services established in 2001 the Roy W. Davis Volunteer Lawyer Award to honor attorneys for their community service and volunteer contributions.
"For many, many years Roy presided over firm meetings and celebrations with unparalleled wit and grace. No one could forget his insistence on 'Christmas hugs' for everyone or the 'litigator of the year' awards for litigation events you would rather forget," said senior principal Albert Sneed.
Davis earned his undergraduate degree from Davidson College in 1952 and graduated cum laude from UNC Law School in 1955. While at UNC Law School, he was selected to the Order of the Coif.
In addition to his legal practice, Davis was an active member of the community, serving as a former trustee for Memorial Mission Hospital, Life After Cancer, Inc., and St. Mary's College in Raleigh. Davis was also an active member at Trinity Episcopal Church where he served many years as vestry member, senior warden and even for a period as a member of the choir. Davis served as Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina under three bishops. The Chancellor is appointed by the diocesan bishop to advise on matters of secular and ecclesiastical law.
Davis is survived by his wife, Madeline; son, Walton (Maura); daughters, Cissy, Becky (Grady), and Sally (Billy Ray); grandchildren, Henry, Ella, Harriet, and Wilson; and mother-in-law, Madeline Combs.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00am on Saturday, April 11, 2015 at Trinity Episcopal Church followed by a reception. Van Winkle principal, Larry S. McDevitt, will speak during the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, 60 Church Street, Asheville, NC 28801; Pisgah Legal Services, 62 Charlotte Street, Asheville, NC 28801; or a charity of one's choice.