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Wade Smith Receives Judge John J. Parker Award

Wade Smith Receives Judge John J. Parker Award

Wade Smith, left, accepts award from Alan Duncan, chair of the Past Presidents' Council, and President Catharine Arrowood.

Wade M. Smith of Raleigh is the 37th recipient of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Judge John J. Parker Award. The award was presented Saturday, June 20, at the NCBA Annual Meeting in Asheville.  

A native of Albemarle, Smith received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1960. He was a Morehead Scholar and member of the football team, making All-Atlantic Coast Conference his junior year. Smith served as co-captain his senior year, which ended with a 50-0 victory over Duke.

Smith graduated from the UNC School of Law in 1963. He clerked for Justice Carlisle W. Higgins of the N.C. Supreme Court before joining J. Harold Tharrington to form Tharrington Smith on Sept. 1, 1964. He also served as a prosecutor in Wake County Superior Court and was twice elected to the N.C. House of Representatives. In 1985 he was elected chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party.

Smith has served as president of the Wake County Bar Association and the 10th Judicial District Bar, the Wake County Academy of Criminal Trial Lawyers and the UNC General Alumni Association. UNC-Chapel Hill honored Smith in 1989 as the recipient of its Distinguished Service Medal. He received the Joseph Branch Professionalism Award from the Wake County Bar Association in 1998 and N.C. State Bar’s John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award in 2013.

The NCBA previously honored Smith as the 2008 recipient of the H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award. It was also in 2008 that the NCBA’s Criminal Justice Section first presented awards honoring an outstanding criminal defense attorney and prosecutor. Smith became the first recipient of what became the Wade M. Smith Award, presented annually to a “Criminal Defense Attorney Who Exemplifies the Highest Ideals of the Profession.”

Smith is widely known for his participation in many landmark trials, including the Jeffrey McDonald murder case and the Duke Lacrosse case, in which he served as lead counsel for one of three lacrosse players falsely accused of rape. But no matter the scope of the case, Wade Smith has always treated each case as the most important one he has ever handled, because to each and every client, it is.