Dedication Ceremony Unveils Three New NCBF Justice Funds

Three new North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment Justice Funds were dedicated on Thursday, May 16, during a Named Endowment Funds Dedication Ceremony at the N.C. Bar Center.

The Justice Funds were established in honor of Charles L. Becton and Rosemary Gill Kenyon and in memory of Judge J. Herbert W. Small, who died in 2022 at the age of 96.

The ceremony opened with remarks from Jason M. Hensley, executive director of the North Carolina Bar Association and NCBF.

“It is wonderful to be in this space, on this particular occasion, to recognize North Carolina attorneys who have committed support to the North Carolina Bar Foundation’s Endowment,” Hensley said, “and whose impressive careers and professional accomplishments have inspired others to make gifts of support as well.

“Each of the attorneys we celebrate today has a different story, but they all are united in a commitment to serving the people of North Carolina by advancing the Foundation’s core values of access to justice, service through the profession, civic education, professionalism, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Your presence here today demonstrates your appreciation of these distinguished attorneys and our shared commitment to service through the profession.”

Patti Ramseur, president of the NCBA+NCBF for 2023-24, provided additional remarks and introduced each of the Justice Fund presenters.

“In 1960,” Ramseur said, “the North Carolina Bar Foundation was established as the philanthropic arm of the Association. Today, the work of the Foundation is driven by its mission to unite the talent and generosity of the profession to be a power of greater good for the people of North Carolina. The Foundation is further guided by its vision to ensure a vibrant North Carolina where legal services are available to all, regardless of ability to pay; where members of the legal profession continue to provide community service and leadership profoundly impacting the public and where all North Carolinians understand and have confidence in their legal system.

“As a legal community, we demonstrate the value of our profession to society through our acts and our generosity – your gifts of time and money. It is this generosity that allows us to live out our mission and vision through pro bono, civic education, and professionalism programs.”

Contributors to the J. Herbert W. Small Justice Fund, in support of Civic Education, are John and Susan Small of Greensboro, Elizabeth S. Reid of Elizabeth City, JJ and Carol Owens of Cary, and Phil and Fran Holland of Jefferson. John Small, who practices with Brooks Pierce in Greensboro, presented the Justice Fund in honor of his father.

“My sisters and I have chosen to honor my father’s legacy by establishing this Justice Fund to support the Bar Foundation’s Civic Education initiative,” Small said. “Throughout his legal career, our father saw the importance of our democratic system and our legal system built on the principle of the rule of law. Civics was once a required course in our public schools to educate our next generation about our democracy and our judicial system, but no longer. We support the Bar Foundation’s efforts to address this issue.”

Contributors to the Charles L. Becton Justice Fund, in support of the NCBF Open Door Fund, are Mark and Joanna Holt of Raleigh. The Justice Fund was presented by colleagues Asa L. Bell Jr. of the Law Offices of Asa L. Bell Jr. in Raleigh and John R. Wester of Robinson Bradshaw in Charlotte.

“I cannot and will not be able to thank Mark and Joanna enough,” Becton said. “This marvelous gift honors me, but more importantly, the funds are a gift to the North Carolina Bar Foundation to carry out this worthy and needed Open Door Fund Fellowship. You see, I am the honoree of Mark and Joanna’s largesse, but scores of historically excluded or under-resourced law students are the beneficiaries of their largesse.”

The Rosemary Gill Kenyon Justice Fund, in support of the NCBF Open Door Fund, has been established through the generosity of her firm, Smith Anderson of Raleigh. The Justice Fund was presented by daughter Mary Pat Kenyon Sullivan of Smith Anderson and colleague Catharine Biggs Arrowood of Parker Poe (Retired of Counsel) in Raleigh.

“First, I want to thank my firm,” Kenyon said. “I just retired from the partnership, and I cannot think of anything that would have meant more to me than what the firm did by giving this money to the Foundation for this Justice Fund. I’m so honored, and particularly because it’s for such a good cause. My heart is just so warmed with gratitude to the firm.”

Mark Holt spoke on behalf of the NCBF Development Committee and the Open Door Fellowship and Fund, which was established to address inequities in access to legal services and participation in the legal profession experienced by historically excluded or disadvantaged individuals and communities in North Carolina. Holt and fellow Past President Caryn McNeill have co-chaired the Open Door initiative since its inception.

“I just want to say a huge thank you,” Holt said. “Thank you to all of you for making today such a special and joyful occasion. Today is the kind of day we dream about at the North Carolina Bar Foundation. It’s the kind of day that inspires us to do the work we do. Three extraordinary lives and careers have been honored. Each of these individuals has positively impacted the lives and careers of innumerable attorneys.”

A Justice Fund is a Named Endowment Fund established with a minimum of $50,000 in commitments intended to bolster 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. Learn more here.

Jason Hensley provided closing remarks and directed participants and attendees to the Bynum M. Hunter Galleria, where the new Justice Fund plaques were unveiled.

Biographies of Justice Fund honorees are provided below:

The Honorable J. Herbert W. Small

Judge Small, a man with black hair, is photographed in black and white. he wears a white shirt, dark tie and dark suit.

Herbert W. Small was born in Elizabeth City, N.C., on May 26, 1925, to the Honorable Walter Lowry Small, Sr. and Elizabeth White Small. He was the third of four children in an active household, living across the street from the fire station in Elizabeth City. There he obtained his first job sweeping out the fire station at the age of five. Later, he began delivering newspapers and groceries. His father passed away when he was fourteen years old, requiring him to become the man of the house. He was adventurous in his youth, enjoying hunting, camping, and fishing. But his true outdoor passion was sailing on the Pasquotank River.

Herbert entered the officer training program for the U.S. Navy and completed his first year of college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Then the Navy redirected his plans and enrolled him in an accelerated civil engineering program at the University of Virginia. By the time of his graduation, World War II had ended. He was honorably discharged when his commission was completed. He returned to Chapel Hill to earn his law degree, passing the bar in 1949.

After a year in private practice in Elizabeth City, Herbert spent two years in Washington, D.C., as aide to Congressman Herbert Bonner and Special Counsel to the Congressional Committee on Intergovernmental Relations. The fond memories he had made in his youth with his family and friends led him back to his hometown for the remainder of his life. Upon his return, Herbert formed a partnership as he resumed full-time private practice. During this time, he served as attorney for Pasquotank County for eight years.

In 1966, Herbert accepted Governor Dan K. Moore’s appointment to the office of State Solicitor. He served in this role for three consecutive terms. During this time, Herbert served on the Governor’s Jail Study Commission, as well as Chairman of the District Attorneys Advisory Committee, President of the Solicitors Association, and President of the First District Bar Association.

In 1974, Herbert was elected a Judge of the Superior Court with his first term beginning in 1975. He served in this capacity the remainder of his 52-year law career, retiring as the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge of the First Judicial District. He continued as an emergency judge and a recall judge following retirement.

As was typical of him, Herbert was again active in state professional organizations, serving as President of the North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges and representing the Conference on the North Carolina Policy and Sentencing Commission. During his time on the bench, he mentored new judges in his and other districts, providing guidance, counsel, and encouragement to them.

In recognition of his long and distinguished career, the federal courthouse in Elizabeth City is named in his honor as the “J. Herbert W. Small Federal Building and United States Courthouse.”

As a faithful member of Blackwell Memorial Baptist Church, Herbert served as Chairman of the Board of Deacons, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Sunday School teacher, and an active member of several committees. A civic-minded man, Herbert was always politically active, working for the betterment of his community. He was also a member of several community organizations, such as the Rotary Club and Jaycees which awarded him the Distinguished Service Award. He served as Chairman of the Albemarle Hospital Board of Trustees, overseeing a major expansion of the hospital. Among other honors, he received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the State of North Carolina for his significant contributions to the state and his community.

Herbert was married to Annette Ward for 70 years, raising four children of their own: Elizabeth, John, Fran, and Carol. Of all his various activities, Herbert enjoyed family time the most, welcoming nine grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren into the family.

Charles L. Becton

Charles, a Black man with black hair and a beard, wears a blue shirt, red tie and navy suit.Charles L. Becton was born on May 4, 1944, in Morehead City, North Carolina. He spent his formative years in the Pitt County town of Ayden and graduated from South Ayden High School in 1962. His next stop was Howard University in Washington, D.C., where Becton was a campus leader and student-athlete. In addition to earning his bachelor’s degree in 1966, Becton carried forward the Howard University motto, Veritas et Utilitas (Truth and Service), into virtually every aspect of his professional life. Leadership and Advocacy provided additional pillars upon which he built his career.

A pivotal moment in this journey transpired after Becton returned to North Carolina and entered Duke University School of Law, from which he graduated in 1969. It was there that he met his future bride and life partner, Brenda, a Duke undergrad who would soon share the distinction of being among the first three Black women to enter Duke Law School, from which she graduated in 1974. They met in a picket line while protesting the exclusion of a Black football player from attending his own Duke University team banquet at the all-white Hope Valley Country Club. They have been inseparable ever since. Their marriage produced three children – daughters Nicole and Michelle and son Kevin. The Hon. Brenda Becton, now retired, enjoyed a remarkable legal career in her own right which included service as an Administrative Law Judge.

Charles Becton spent the first year of his legal career with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City. He then joined the Charlotte firm of Chambers Stein Ferguson & Lanning, which later opened a Chapel Hill office where Becton practiced prior to his appointment to the N.C. Court of Appeals in 1981. Becton served on the Court of Appeals until 1990, during which time he was named North Carolina Appellate Judge of the Year in 1985 and earned an LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1986. He practiced law in Raleigh with Becton, Slifkin & Bell from 1990-2008, after which he continued to devote considerable attention to teaching, writing and mediation.


An advertisement for Lawyers Insurance Agency reads "NC Bar Association Health Plan Cyber Coverage, Life and Disability, Business Insurance, Dental, Bonds."

Becton’s leadership roles include service as president of three statewide bar organizations. He served as president of the North Carolina Bar Association and Foundation in 2008-09, and was the first Black man to serve in this capacity. His installation took place in Atlantic Beach at an oceanfront hotel located footsteps away from a beach where he had been prohibited from swimming as a child because of his race. Becton also served as president of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers and was the first African American to serve as president of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (now N.C. Advocates for Justice). Twice he has provided invaluable leadership to two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), serving as interim chancellor of North Carolina Central University and Elizabeth City State University.

For 30 years, Becton was a litigator who tried scores of major Criminal and Civil Trials. He has been included in The Best Lawyers of America since 1993, and he is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Attorneys, and the International Society of Barristers. He was one of ten attorneys selected to demonstrate trial advocacy skills on an ATLA/ABA/NITA video series, “Winning at Trial,” in April 1986; one of twelve attorneys selected to demonstrate cross-examination skills on an ABA/NITA video project, “Mastering the Art of Cross Examination,” in June 1986; one of eight attorneys selected to demonstrate trial advocacy skills on an ATLA Video Series “Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit” in October 1993; and one of a select number of attorneys to demonstrate trial advocacy skills at the American Folklife Festival in 1986.

During the past 35 years, Becton has taught trial advocacy skills to more than 40,000 lawyers, and he has served as the John Scott Cansler Lecturer at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and as a Senior Lecturer in Law, as well as a Professor of the Practice, at Duke University Law School. He has taught and lectured at trial advocacy skills institutes across the country, in Canada, and in the Republic of South Africa. From 2016-20, Becton served as the RJR Nabisco Endowed Chair at North Carolina Central School of Law where he taught Rhetoric and Advocacy.

Becton has received numerous awards including three national trial advocacy teaching awards. In January 1988, Becton received the William J. Brennan, Jr. Trial Advocacy Award for his work in improving the skills of trial lawyers. In June 1990, Becton was the first recipient of the Charles L. Becton Trial Advocacy Award, given annually by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. In July 1990, Becton was a co-recipient of the Roscoe Pound Foundation’s Richard S. Jacobson Award from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America recognizing the nation’s best trial advocacy teacher.

In January 1990, he received the North Carolina Association of Educators “Excellence in Equity” Award. In May 1995, Becton received the South Carolina Trial Jury Foundation’s Distinguished Service Award. In October 1995, Becton received the Robert Keeton NITA Trial Advocacy Teaching Award. In May 2006, Becton was the first recipient of The Advocate’s Award from the NCBA Litigation Section. In October 2006, he was appointed to the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, and he received the American Bar Association’s Torts and Insurance Practice Section’s Pursuit of Justice Award. And in 2013, Becton received the Elon University School of Law Leadership in the Law Award.

Truth. Service. Leadership. Advocacy. On these four pillars stands a gentle giant who has mentored generations of lawyers by example and instruction. He has assumed the mantle of leadership without hesitation or pause. He has personified the tireless advocate in the courtroom and the classroom. His devotion to the legal profession and all who assume its noble cause is indescribable, yet he himself came as close as humanly possible on the evening of June 21, 2008, when he was installed as the 114th president of the NCBA.

“Law is the vehicle through which I have sought to serve the public,” Charles Becton stated. “I love the law. I love people.”

Rosemary Gill Kenyon

Rosemary, a white woman with grey hair and clear glasses, wears a blue blouse, black jacket and white necklace. Rosemary (Rose) Gill Kenyon grew up in Bay City, Michigan. Rose was the third of five children born to Josephine and Harry Gill, who were devoted to their family and to serving others. Rose’s mother was a schoolteacher and her father worked in accounting. From an early age, Rose learned the importance of helping others and pulling her weight.

Rose attended local parochial schools through high school. She was always full of energy and was an active participant in all phases of school life, including student government and an award-winning cheerleading squad (pre-Title IX).

Rose attended Saint Mary’s College (SMC), Notre Dame, Indiana, an all-women’s college, graduating in 1976. Coming from a long line of independent-minded SMC alumnae – her mother, graduating in 1946, her grandmother in 1911, and her great-grandmother in 1882 – Rose was a fourth-generation graduate. SMC’s proximity to Notre Dame allowed her to participate in the Notre Dame Rowing Club as a coxswain. Rose has since served on SMC’s national Alumnae Board and established a scholarship fund in honor of her mother, the Josephine Sullivan Gill ‘46 Family Scholarship.

After college, Rose entered the Notre Dame Law School, graduating in 1979. At Notre Dame, she participated in the student bar association, and won a position on the national Moot Court Team, which memorably presented an appellate argument before a panel of visiting jurists that included Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court.

In 1979, when Rose began to look for a job, many firms had few if any women lawyers. Rose embraced this challenge, becoming the first female lawyer hired by the Christian Barton law firm in Richmond, Virginia. Rose brought her energy and positive midwestern attitude – accent and all – to her work to great success. With a sense of humor and devotion to quality, she and her colleagues successfully navigated the path and remain friends today. In those days, Rose recalls that most judges were generally receptive to female lawyers. Since there were so few women lawyers who appeared in court, her uniqueness at the time meant that the judges – and court staff – tended to remember her from prior appearances and became very supportive.

Rose moved to Raleigh in late 1985. An introduction from a federal judge in Richmond led to the chance to serve as a part-time, pro bono law clerk for Judge W. Earl Britt, now a Senior United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. In 1986, Rose joined the CP&L Legal Department (now part of Duke Energy), where she worked for 13 years, eventually serving as Deputy General Counsel. She became a much sought-after advisor to her clients who – because of their physical proximity – seemed to line up at her office door. Rose had always wanted to return to private practice and in 1999, she had the good fortune to join the Smith Anderson law firm, where she has practiced employment and labor law ever since.

Through every stage of her legal career, Rose has demonstrated a devotion to service to the legal profession, to the community and to supporting other lawyers. Rose has mentored younger lawyers throughout her years of practice and is proud of the many achievements of those whom she has supported.

Rose has been a leader in organizing efforts in the private bar to provide pro bono legal services. At CP&L, Rose established the first pro bono program for in-house corporate lawyers in North Carolina and partnered with what was then known as Wake County Legal Aid to provide in-take services to potential legal aid clients. Rose also served as the Pro Bono Partner at Smith Anderson for over two decades and has chaired the SA Community Fund Committee, which to date has given away more than $600,000 to organizations that support underprivileged individuals, children and families in need, as well as groups that address racial equality. Rose has personally provided countless hours of pro bono service through various legal services organizations over the years.

Rose’s commitment to the profession has carried over to her involvement in the North Carolina Bar Association, where she has served in numerous leadership roles, including on the Board of Governors (2005-2008) and as the Chair of the Strategic Planning and Emerging Trends Committee (2008-2011). From 2001-2004, she chaired the Women in the Profession Committee, which culminated in the publication of The Changing Face of Justice: A Look at the First 100 Women Attorneys in North Carolina. The Committee’s accomplishment was celebrated with two days of events, including a day-long seminar and a dinner attended by one of the three surviving first 100 women.

Rose’s service has also extended to the nonprofit community. She has chaired the boards of Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, Community Music School, and Pines of Carolina Girl Scout Council, among others, and currently serves as a Trustee for the North Carolina Symphony Society.

Rose has three adult daughters – Mary Pat Kenyon Sullivan, Katharine Kenyon Hodinka, MD, and Sarah Kenyon. She also has four grandchildren. Rose treasures spending time with her family more than anything, but also enjoys travel, spending time with friends, and her new refuge at Lake Gaston.

Russell Rawlings is director of external affairs and communications for the North Carolina Bar Association.