2015 Citizen Lawyers: John Willardson
By Whit Davis
WILKESBORO – John Willardson, currently the chairman of the board of the Wilkes Family YMCA, first fell in love with the Y as a boy. He spent a great deal of time as a child at the Y in Santa Monica, California. He moved to Wilkes County after finishing law school and clerking at the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
He joined the Wilkes Family Y, and eventually became a member of the board in the 1980s. “We took the Wilkes Family Y from near financial ruin to a new 36,000 square foot express and family Y,” Willardson says of his greatest accomplishment on the Board. “I can’t imagine the quality of life of the people of Wilkes County without it.”
The Wilkes Y has an open doors membership policy, so no one is turned away from becoming a member solely because of financial hardship. Willardson’s work as chairman as well as the Annual Giving Campaign chair helps make that open doors policy possible through fundraising. The money the Y raises also subsidizes children’s summer camps and swimming lessons. “Knowing how it benefits the community and enriches the lives of people in this community” is what has kept Willardson involved with the Y for so many years.
“John is one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever come across,” says Caroline Whitson, associate executive director of the Wilkes Y, and soon-to-be first female executive director. Caroline has worked with Willardson on the board for eight years, but says it feels like Willardson has been on the board “forever.”
“Without John and a few other board members, we would have had to close our doors,” she says. Caroline describes Willardson as a “gentleman,” and says “when he signs on to something, you’re going to get 110%.”
Willardson is a former partner of Willardson & Lipscomb, LLP, but now works in solo practice. He focuses his practice on insurance defense, civil trials, and also represents the Town of Wilkesboro. Willardson is married and met his wife at UNC where they graduated together. He has one son, who recently graduated from UNC-Charlotte law school and who is sitting for the 2015 North Carolina bar.
The Citizen Lawyer Committee of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division, in conjunction with the NCBA Citizen Lawyer Committee, provides expanded coverage of the 2015 Citizen Lawyer Awards in recognition of their volunteer service and leadership in their communities and beyond.
Whit Davis is an assistant public defender in Forsyth County.