General Practice Hall of Fame Inducts Four
Four new members of the North Carolina Bar Association’s General Practice Hall of Fame were inducted on Thursday evening, June 22, at the 119th NCBA Annual Meeting in Asheville.
Attorneys comprising the 2017 induction class are:
- Leto Copeley, Durham
- Charles David Gantt, Asheville
- Bobby Harold Griffin, Monroe
- Thomas J. White III, Kinston
The Hall of Fame, sponsored by the NCBA Solo, Small Firm & General Practice Section, was established in 1989. This year’s induction class brings membership in the Hall of Fame to 157 attorneys.
General Practice Hall of Fame lawyers are general practitioners who are outstanding members of the legal profession whose careers have served as models for lawyers in the general practice of law. To be eligible for nomination, lawyers much have practiced law for at least 25 years, a significant portion of that time having been devoted to the general practice of law, and must be members in good standing with the North Carolina State Bar and the North Carolina Bar Association, and are living at the time of their selections.
Please read further to learn more about this year’s inductees.
Leto Copeley is a native of New York City and grew up in Sussex County, N.J. She attended Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., and graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College of the City University of New York in 1980.
Copeley is a graduate of Harvard Law School and clerked for U.S. District Judge James B. McMillan in Charlotte, where she developed her affinity for North Carolina. Her first legal employment after her clerkship was with Legal Services of Southern Piedmont (LSSP). There, beginning in 1984, she handled landlord-tenant, public benefits and domestic violence cases in Charlotte and Monroe for nearly two years.
Following her stint with LSSP, Leto hung out her shingle in Charlotte alongside another LSSP alumnus, Jane Harper, now a retired District Court judge. Copeley later moved to Greensboro, where she worked for a year with Smith Patterson Follin Curtis James Harkavy & Lawrence. Although she enjoyed the experience with all the firm’s lawyers, Charlotte was beckoning her back. She did hope that one day, however, she would be able to rejoin the firm in its Raleigh office.
In Greensboro and back in Charlotte, Copeley practiced in the areas of family and juvenile law, employment, workers’ compensation and collections. In 1994 Copeley moved to Durham and practiced for two years with employment lawyer Lynn Fontana and her partner Abby Fine in their firm Fontana Fine & Copeley. Fine left for New Jersey and Lisa Lanier joined the group. The firm was then Fontana Copeley & Lanier.
Meanwhile the Smith Patterson firm had divided, and Copeley was invited to join the firm of Patterson Harkavy & Lawrence in Raleigh, which she did in 1996, becoming a partner in 1998. She remained with the firm until 2011, when she joined Valerie Johnson and Ann Groninger to form Copeley Johnson & Groninger.
Copeley has served on various section councils of the NCBA, several committees and sections of the N.C. Advocates for Justice, and a term as president of the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys. She served in leadership roles with Legal Aid of North Carolina. She has taught one or two CLE programs nearly annually for the past 23 years for such organizations as the ABA, NCBA, NCAJ, and NCAWA.
Copeley and her husband, Bert Fisher, live in Hillsborough.
Charles David Gantt
Charles David Gantt is a lifelong North Carolinian and 1981 graduate of Campbell Law School. He earned a B.A. in Economics from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1978. Gantt and his wife, Charise, have been married for 37 years.
Gantt has been a member of the North Carolina bar since 1981 and is a Board Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law. He practices in the areas of Social Security Disability, Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation. Outside of a few years with associates, he has been a solo practitioner.
He was honored in 2007 as one of the original recipients of the NCBA’s Citizen Lawyer Award, and his resume is a testament to the exemplary record of community service and leadership that the award aspires to recognize.
Gantt has served as Buncombe County Commissioner for the last 20 years. Involved on many levels, he has served in many capacities, including chairman of both the Land of Sky Regional Council and the Mountain Resource Commission, a 2010 gubernatorial appointment.
He has dedicated his service to the boards of The United Way, Eblen Charities Foundation, the Asheville Airport Authority, the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, and the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, among others. He is a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee and a lifetime member of the NAACP. He is a member of the Presidents’ Club of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ), and has served as dean of the People’s Law School of the NC Academy of Trial Lawyers (now NCAJ).
Gantt has received numerous honors and awards, including the 2004 Charles Campbell Regional Leadership Award, the 2005 Circle of Excellence Award for Community Leadership and the 2005 NCBA Centennial Award for Community Service.
He has been recognized by many local and municipal entities for his dedication to excellence in leadership with the 2006 RiverWise Award for French Broad River Preservation, the 2007 Friends of the River Award, the 2010 WENOA Sierra Club Leadership Award, the WNC Central Labor Council 2012 Stepp Labor Leader Award, the 2015 WNC Elected Official of the Year by Mountain True environmental group, and the 2016 Liston Ramsey Award for the 11th Congressional District Democrat of the Year.
Gantt was also named the American Planning Association Outstanding Elected Official of 2016, the Champion of Buncombe Animals Award from the Humane Society of Asheville, the 2016 Minnie Jones Social Justice Award, the 2016 Greenway Hero Award from Friends of Connect Buncombe, the Sierra Club’s 2016 Environmental Political Leadership Award, and the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award by the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County.
Bobby Harold Griffin
Bobby Harold Griffin was born in the Olive Branch Community of Union County. He graduated in 1956 from New Salem High School and earned his undergraduate degree from Pfeiffer College (now University) in 1962. After graduation he taught school in Winston-Salem for two years before entering law school.
In 1965 he married his Pfeiffer sweetheart, Norma Bennett, and they now live in Monroe. Griffin attended Wake Forest University School of Law, from which he graduated in 1967, and entered into the general practice of law in Monroe.
The firm he joined, Wilson, Clark & Huffman, was originally begun by the late Henry Hall Wilson Jr. (then assistant to President Kennedy in the White House), Richard S. Clark and Robert L. Huffman. The firm is now Clark, Griffin & McCollum, L.L.P., composed of Griffin as senior partner and Joe P. McCollum Jr., partner and a fellow 1967 Wake Forest law school graduate.
Bobby has taught Sunday school at First Baptist-Monroe for many years and has been its Sunday School director and chairman of the deacons and trustees. He served as Moderator of the Union Baptist Association and continues to render gratuitous service to Baptist churches throughout Union County. In addition he has served as director of Monroe Little League, is a Civitan and its former president, as a member of the Urban Redevelopment Commission for Monroe, as a member and chairman of the Union County Board of Social Services, as chairman of the Monroe Recreation Advisory Commission, as a member of the Monroe Board of Adjustment and Union County Land Use Plan.
He served 12 years on the Monroe Board of Education and served from 1981-89 as its chair, and also served in the N.C. House of Representatives. He was presented The Order of Long Leaf Pine by Gov. Hunt in 1995.
Griffin was instrumental in helping organize a community bank and a newspaper in Union County. He served for 10 years as chairperson of the Union County Board of Elections. In 2009 he was honored as Man of the Year in Union County. He has served as a Candidate Interview Committee member for the 20th Judicial Bar District, and is a former president of the Union County Bar Association.
Thomas J. White III
Thomas Jackson White III is a native of Kinston. He attended Woodberry Forest School in Orange, Va., and the University of North Carolina, where he was a Morehead Scholar. He graduated in 1963 and proceeded to the UNC School of Law, from which he graduated in 1966.
Following a clerkship with Federal District Judge John D. Larkins Jr. in the Eastern District of N.C., White joined his father and John R. Hooten, forming White, Hooten & White Law Firm in a general practice. He served as president of the Lenoir County Bar Association earlier in his career and continues as an active member, as well as in the Eighth Judicial District Bar and the NCBA.
In 1978 he joined Rives & Peterson in Birmingham, Ala., as a partner. A licensed pilot, he soon developed a multi-state aviation insurance defense practice and participated also in his firm’s representation throughout the Southeast of injured railroad workers under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act.
In 1986, White returned to North Carolina and joined Young, Moore and Henderson in Raleigh, continuing his aviation defense practice and association by his former Birmingham law partners as local counsel in railroad employee injury cases occurring in North Carolina. He also began handling maritime/admiralty cases with greater frequency.
In 1993, White opened his separate practice, White Law Offices, P.A., and became a Certified Mediator in 1998. He returned home in 2002 and rejoined White & Allen, engaging in a general practice and increased bar association and local civic activities.
Since retiring from White & Allen at the end of 2012, White has pursued his goals of developing further his mediation practice, engaging more in state and local bar and civic activities and spending more time with family. Serving on the NCBA Professionalism Committee is an enjoyable current endeavor, and the committee is presently conducting a video-taped series of brief stories by attorneys, statewide, about significant personal experiences of professionalism, a project which he proposed as a member of the committee.
White is married to Nancy Hoggard White, a legal assistant who also worked for him for over 15 years. They now reside at Atlantic Beach, but he continues to maintain an office in Kinston.