Community leaders are reacting to the passing of a former prominent town attorney, a man greatly considered a legal icon throughout North Carolina.
R. Lewis Alexander Sr., 94, of Elkin, died Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. Alexander served as town attorney of Boonville for 20 years and town attorney of Elkin for 54 years.
“Lewis was a wonderful teacher, mentor and leader for many years of Elkin elected officials. He served as the town attorney and the first professional to apply professional skill sets to local government. The portrait in the town hall is the epitome of him. He was a thoughtful man considering the future based on experience and vision,” said Mayor Lestine Hutchens.
“He was a mentor to me. While I was in law school, I started doing work for him. He was always accommodating and helpful to me,” said Elkin Town Attorney Raymond “Scooter” Parker.
Parker said he was humbled and gratified that Alexander would consult with him during the later portion of Alexander’s practicing career. “He was helpful to many young lawyers. He tried to reason with them and help them. He was just an outstanding person. As town attorney today, you don’t fill those shoes. Lewis had a shoe size much bigger than anyone can fit into,” said Parker.
“You know, Lewis was one of the first 16 lawyers inducted into the North Carolina Lawyers General Practice Hall of Fame. He became well known. He was one of only three lawyers in our town years ago,” said Parker.
Alexander was born in Carthage, son of Oscar and Maribelle Reynolds. Following graduation from Wake Forest College and Law School, he served in World War II as first lieutenant and gunnery officer on LST 5. He married Julia Anne McKnight and moved to Elkin to practice law.
“During the 20th Century and when the North Carolina State Bar opted to assign a number to each lawyer allowed to practice law in the state, Lewis’ registration was number 44. In contrast, I have been practicing law for over 20 years. My registration number is 18,188,” said lawyer James Freeman.
According to Freeman, Lewis participated in a NC Bar Association-required continuing education program held in January at the Elkin Public Library. “No matter his age, Lewis was determined. He was a lawyer’s lawyer. He was the dean of our legal profession,” Freeman said.
In addition to practicing law, Alexander organized the Elkin High School tennis team and coached to a record of 60 wins and three losses against competition from throughout the state, according to his obituary. He was a member of Elkin Presbyterian Church and served on the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Board and Foundation for many years.
Alexander was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, one sister and four brothers. He is survived by three daughters, Rosemary Raynal, Helen Faulk and Lois Folger; one son, R. Lewis Alexander Jr.; 10 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.
“We are so thankful for the outpouring of community support. My dad had a wonderful life. Despite his declining health over the last seven years, we celebrated every minute of his life. He was ready. We were ready. He had a great summer with family,” said daughter Helen Faulk.
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached on Twitter @newsgonz.