Beloved attorney, judge Barber dies at 78

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Wade Barber Jr., a revered local attorney and judge, was remembered fondly as a respected attorney, jurist and friend following his death last Friday.

Barber, who grew up in Pittsboro, died Friday after a short battle with ALS. His obituary said he passed away surrounded by family members — his wife Marina, his daughters Claire and Liz, their partners Lois Bukowski and Danny Spiegel, and his son James Riley.

Retired journalist and editor Ted Vaden recalls Barber serving as a judge, presiding over a trial in which he was the plaintiff.

“His ruling went against me, but I came away respecting the fair way he conducted the trial and his careful reasoning on the merits of the law,” Vaden said. “Later, I came to know Wade better as he and his wife Marina hosted at their home a regular gathering of thinking people — lawyers, journalists, academics, a preacher or two — to discuss issues of the day. Those were evenings from which I emerged always refreshed and enlightened.”

Barber had a special love for Chatham County and the folks who grew up there and lived there.

“Maybe it came from his father, who had that as well,” said attorney and former legislator Joe Hackney. “He was proud the serve Chatham and Orange as District Attorney, and later as Superior Court Judge. But I think his favorite times were those years when he was practicing law in Pittsboro with his father, with Ed Holmes, and later with daughter Liz.”

On Facebook, commenters remembered Barber as “a true gentleman,” a “real class act,” and “a gentleman of the highest order.”

Barber served on the boards of a long list of organizations, including the Golden Leaf Foundation, the North Carolina Environmental Defense Fund, the North Carolina Bar Association and many other legal panels and advisory groups. His awards included the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union Award, the North Carolina Mediation Network Service Award, the North Carolina Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Section Service Award, and the Chatham County Smart Start Distinguished Service Award.

He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in January, and in March he was inducted into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor.

A memorial service was held Monday. Barber’s obituary can be found in this week’s edition.


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