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What Will Be Your Story? A Memorial Tribute to Allan Head

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 3, 2019

Editor's Note: Allan B. Head, the long-time executive director of the North Carolina Bar Association and long-time treasurer of the Wake County Bar Association, was one of our Tenth members recently recognized at the Tenth Judicial District’s memorial session of court held on April 12. Melissa Essary, professor and former dean of Campbell Law School, presented Allan’s tribute, and it fit directly with our professionalism committee’s theme for this year: what will be your story? You can read her remarks below and also view the memorial session online, which recognized J. Allen Adams, John W. Herron, Robert Worthington Spearman, Reuben Grove Clark, III, and Robert Marcus Lodge in addition to Allan.


Melissa Essary, Campbell University Law School

When Allan’s wife Patti called to ask if I could give a brief eulogy, my deep honor turned to a bit of anxiety. Who am I to speak of Allan, who generously embraced and even loved so many of us in this room? But my anxiety has turned back to honor, and I speak briefly today with passion about the man I knew for only eleven short years, Allan Head.

I met Allan just before I became Dean of Campbell Law School in 2006 at an annual [North Carolina Bar Association] meeting. He didn’t know me but greeted me as though I were a long-lost friend. I was new to North Carolina, new to the [NCBA], but felt I’d found a home in this warm, friendly man. We were at the beach that year, and beach music blasted that final night. Allan said, “Do you want to shag?” Being a native Texan, I realized that either my new friend had issues or was speaking a foreign language. I hoped it was the latter and agreed to dance this jitterbug dance, ultimately laughing until my sides were hurting.

And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with this man who embodied so much that is good in our world: passion, warmth, kindness, and humor, all while leading and building over 43 years’ time one of the best state bar associations in the country—if not the best.  And he did this all while being a husband of more than 50 years to his beloved Patti, a father to three children, and a grandfather who still skied, ziplined and more. He was just a cool guy.

If you knew Allan, you knew the twinkle in his eye, you knew the laughter around the corner, you knew the friendship that is a footprint on our hearts.

For in Allan, life was to be lived, people were to be embraced. His buoyant enthusiasm for life and laughter was contagious and lifted all those in the room. His “Can-do” attitude infected me and my leadership at Campbell Law School. All of a sudden, I found myself in a state that welcomed Deans and interested lawyers to the table of a committee called the Law School Liaison Committee, an idea created by Allan that brought all legal education leaders to the table to learn from each other and support each other.

In my native Texas, such a thing was absolutely unheard of. Law schools were silos and competitors. But to Allan, who supported deeply our state’s law schools, a rising tide lifted all boats. And he was right. I couldn’t believe the support that we as deans received from the bar association and from each other, all of Allan’s doing. Allan wanted the best for every law student in this state, and he shepherded more than a few of them into law school, through law school, and into the practice. Today, Madison Sides, a current 1L at Campbell, sits beside Patti. I remember the last time I saw Allan: it was when he brought Madison to my office to introduce her to me as she was looking at law schools. He was fragile, and in this last act of kindness, still paying it forward.

As I close, I simply throw out these words: family, faith, friends. Allan Head was so much to so many. To me, he was a true friend whose broad smile and broad embrace are seared in my heart. Rest well, dear friend. We know you’re jitterbugging with the angels.

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