LAWYER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WAKE COUNTY HISTORY (PART 1)
A MESSAGE FROM
BY MARK A. FINKELSTEIN, PRESIDENT, TENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT BAR
"A PAGE OF HISTORY IS WORTH A VOLUME OF
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, New York Trust
Co. v. Eisner
256 U.S. 335, 343 (16 May 1921).
statement above is just as true in Wake County today as it was in the halls of
the United States Supreme Court 100 years ago. Here are some key events of Wake
County history that should inform and inspire us all as lawyers continue to
create the history of our county:
· On December 29, 1808
in a one-room shack just behind the current North Carolina Supreme Court
building, Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, was born. The
Johnson’s wooden "cabin” has been moved to Mordecai Park where we hold our
annual May members’ picnic.
· Andrew Johnson may
still be a wanted man in Raleigh. As a child, he was indentured to a Raleigh
tailor. Young Andrew skipped out on his indenture contract and moved to Tennessee.
Such conduct was a crime in antebellum North Carolina.
· Abraham Lincoln
selected Andrew Johnson, a Senator from Tennessee and a Democrat, as his Vice
Presidential nominee under the Union Party banner in 1864. Up until President
Clinton’s second term, Johnson had the distinction of being the only President
impeached by the US House of Representatives. He, like Clinton, was not
convicted by the Senate.
· Wake County was
formed in 1771 from parts of Johnston, Cumberland and Orange Counties. It bears
the maiden name of the sitting colonial governor’s wife, Margaret Wake. Tryon
Palace in New Bern is named after that sitting royal governor, William Tryon.
Bloomsbury, formerly known as
Wake Courthouse, was the first county seat of Wake County. The community of
Bloomsbury was the area around Joel Lane’s house – still located at the corner
of St. Mary’s Street and West Hargett Street. Joel Lane was a member of the
first Wake County Court which held hearings in his house. The commission
established in 1792 to locate a new capital for North Carolina met in Joel
Lane’s house and agreed to purchase land from Mr. Lane to establish a new
capital city. Raleigh was placed on 1000 acres purchased from Lane. The city
was planned on a grid system and named Raleigh after Sir Walter Raleigh. North
Carolina’s capital moved from Fayetteville to Raleigh in 1793.
· Wake County has had seven
courthouses (unless you count the places in Wake Forest and elsewhere in the
county where traffic court was held up until recently or Joel Lane’s home,
which was built in the 1760’s and has been noted as the location of Wake
County’s first trials). Shortly after Wake County was established, a log
courthouse was built near the intersection of Hargett Street and Boylan Avenue.
This log structure served as the courthouse until a courthouse was built on the
current Fayetteville Street Courthouse location in 1795.
· The land where the courthouse
stands today was given to the county in 1795 by Theophilus Hunter and James
· The 1795 courthouse was moved and
replaced with a brick Greek Revival building in 1837.
A new courthouse and jail in the
"Second Empire” style was built from 1882-84.
The 1915 granite courthouse was
similar in style to the 1870’s reconstruction federal courthouse that now houses
the Fayetteville Street post office and Bankruptcy Court. This courthouse
building was demolished in 1967 and replaced with the current cast terra cotta
courthouse in 1970.
· An undivided half of
the land on Fayetteville Street where the courthouse stands today was given to
the county by the Bloodworth family. Litigation in the late 20th century
established that if this property ever stops being used as a courthouse, an
undivided half of the property will revert to the heirs of the original
Bloodworth donors under the terms of the original 1790’s deed.
A committee including
our own Chief District Court Judge and WCBA President, Robert Rader, helped
design the new 577,000 square foot Wake County Justice Center at the corner of
Salisbury and Martin Streets. The WCBA helped host a grand ceremony, including
the first en bank sitting of the Wake County District Court and the Wake County
Superior Court, to open the new Justice Center in July of 2013.
The Wake County Bar
is at the heart of the North Carolina Bar Association and has played a key role
in the NCBA’s history. The North Carolina Bar Association was founded in
Raleigh on Feb. 10, 1899. From 1903 through 1915, the NCBA licensed attorneys
in North Carolina from offices in Raleigh. In 1915, the legislature established
a board of law examiners made up of the Chief Justice and two associate
justices of the Supreme Court. At the request of the NCBA, the legislature
established the North Carolina State Bar in 1933. In 1976 Legal Service of
North Carolina, Inc. was established in Raleigh through the North Carolina Bar
Association. The association also established Lawyers Mutual Liability
Insurance Company of NC, which issued its first policy in Raleigh in 1978.
I will close with a
note regarding the author of the initial quotation above: The Town of Wendell
in Eastern Wake County was named after poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, father of
the quoted Supreme Court Justice. Wendell natives, however, do not pronounce
the name of the town as the Holmes family pronounces Wendell. The town of
Wendell does not rhyme with swindle.
Knowing our history
enriches our lives and inspires us to continue Wake County’s great tradition. WBF