NCBF Endowment Justice Funds Dedicated in Honor of James W. Narron
The following is an excerpt from the NCBF. The original article is found on the NCBF website: https://www.ncbarfoundation.org/our-stories/1334/
The North Carolina Bar Foundation held its Winter Dedication ceremony on Thursday, December 5, at the N.C. Bar Center in Cary. Photos from the day’s events can be viewed on the North Carolina Bar Foundation’s Facebook page.
Executive Director Jason Hensley presided. Program participants included President LeAnn Nease Brown of Chapel Hill and long-time Foundation volunteer Heather Culp of Charlotte.
NCBF Endowment Justice Funds were dedicated in memory of A. William “Bill” Kennon formerly with Kennon Craver in Durham, and in honor of James W. Narron with Narron Wenzel in Smithfield and Elizabeth L. Quick with Womble Bond Dickinson in Winston-Salem. The Foundation’s first Lawyer Impact Fund made possible by High Point attorney, James F. Morgan was also recognized during the afternoon ceremony attended by more than 100 family, colleagues and friends.
The Kennon Justice Fund was introduced by Rhodes Carver, managing partner of Kennon Craver of Durham and long-time colleague of Bill. The Narron Justice Fund was introduced by John W. Mason of Asheville on behalf of the family and Narron Wenzel law firm. The Quick Justice Fund was introduced by Edward W. Griggs of Womble Bond Dickinson and Betty’s son Robert representing the family.
About the Funds and our Endowment
A Justice Fund is a named Endowment Fund established with a minimum gift of $50,000 directed toward the Foundation’s unrestricted endowment, which makes annual awards to programmatic purposes in line with the Foundation’s mission, vision and values, subject to the approval of the NCBF Executive and Volunteer Leadership. Justice Fund honorees are commemorated with a copper-etched portrait hung at the N.C. Bar Center. Grant funding for 2019-20 totals $406,262 supporting 28 projects across the state.
James Wiley Narron
His father, born and raised in Johnston County, wanted his son to grow up as the father had, hardscrabble, understanding the joy of work. On his 10th birthday, James Wiley Narron was given an alarm clock, promptly set for 5 a.m. His father, a country lawyer, would do the “lawyering” and the boy would do the farming. He would rise at 5 o’clock, lay a fire in the kitchen, feed the hogs, feed the cows, and get ready for the 7 o’clock school bus. At night, it was the same program, in reverse. Early on he learned the direct connection between effort and results.
Narron entered the University at Chapel Hill wholly unprepared for the rigors of higher education. By the second semester, he came to the realization that he should apply his farm work ethic to his studies, after which he excelled. Upon completion of his undergraduate studies in 1970, be fulfilled his R.O.T.C. commitment with the U.S. Navy, where he was an Ensign deployed to the Mediterranean.
One of his assignments was to serve as officer of the deck during General Quarters and when entering and leaving port. From the bridge, he piloted great ships through the Straits of Gibraltar, Messina, and Magellan; saw the lights of Haifa, Israel and Libreville, Gabon, the eerie red glow of Mount Etna at night; entered and left ports from Naples to Halifax, down the east coast of North America and through the Caribbean, around South America to San Diego and San Francisco. Narron left the Navy as a Lieutenant, having completed a transformative experience of great responsibility.
Wake Forest University, almost alone among law schools, had a program left over from World War II under which a student could make up the first semester in summer school. Narron enrolled in January 1973, about three weeks after leaving his ship in San Diego. Under Dr. Robert E. Lee, reading the first case assigned for the first class, he had an epiphany—this was great fun, intellectually exhilarating, logical, something he realized from the first moment would be his life’s work.
For most of the five-semester time, Narron was first in his class; he made Law Review, set aside an hour each night to read, for fun, law review articles or cases cited in the footnotes of casebooks. He worked until 11 p.m. each night and borrowed a key from the Law Review office to work in the stacks on Saturday afternoons and Sundays when the library was closed.
Narron’s father died just at the end of his second semester. His mother kept open his father’s office, preparing income tax returns, and passing off files to other lawyers, with the certain expectation that he would return to his father’s law office and help on the farm, which he did.
In 1979 he joined with John P. O’Hale to form Narron & O’Hale, which in the following year welcomed O. Hampton Whittington Jr. into Narron, O’Hale and Whittington, P.A. The partnership of friends and colleagues lasted nearly 40 years, becoming Narron Wenzel, P.A., near the end of 2018.
O’Hale had a criminal trial practice; Whittington had a personal injury and general civil litigation practice. Narron found that his colleagues, especially in Wilson and Raleigh, were getting business from large farmers in the locality for tax and estate planning, which he had not studied at Wake Forest. In 1982 the economy took a bad turn and the law business was in a slump. A difficult divorce case made clear that such litigation should not be his life’s work. Narron applied to tax LL.M. programs and entered N.Y.U in September 1982 for a 9-month program.
At that time, there was more need for estate planning with tax consequences than for “straight” tax planning, at least in eastern North Carolina. He did both, but gravitated toward estate planning with wills and trusts. He had been a charter member of the North Carolina Bar Association Section on Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law and was soon invited to speak at the annual meeting on a tax topic. Not long thereafter, he was invited to become an adjunct professor at the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University. And, soon afterward, he was invited to become part of the faculty at the Southeastern Trust School, also at Campbell, and later at the National Trust School at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.
Those happy invitations led to a shadow career of teaching, numerous articles in publications, and over 100 continuing education manuscripts delivered across the nation. Because of his teaching, he became, by invitation, a Fellow in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel.
In about 2000, with a nod from his partners, he started out to expand his division of the firm. Thereafter, and with Jason W. Wenzel as his partner, the firm has grown to 11 lawyers and 11 staff, with offices in Smithfield, Raleigh, and Benson. The law practice has been good to Narron, and his younger partners and associates are the light of his life.
But there are other passions. After his mother’s death, he consolidated ownership of the family farm and expanded it. He maintained a large herd of cattle on the farm for many years. Now, he is down to about 20 head, and spends most of his time on heavy machinery maintaining the roads in the Neuse River bottoms. His delight is now his renovation of the old farmhouse where he grew up.
Those other passions include contributions to his community and to the bar. Among other recognitions, he has been named Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in recognition of his development efforts in downtown Smithfield. He has served on numerous boards, including Johnston Community College Board of Trustees, and the local Library Board. For many years he was on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Community Foundation, Inc., and served as chairman of that board from 2008 through 2012. He has served as an N.C. State Bar councilor and as chair of its Specialty Committee for Estate Planning, as Vice President of the NCBA and as chair of the Senior Lawyers Division, and on various committees of the Estate Planning & Fiduciary Law Section.