Bob Spearman, a person of fierce intellect and a righteous mind, might well have become a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court or a Wall Street legal titan, given his background of Yale Law and a high court clerkship. But the North Carolina attorney devoted himself in his long legal career to the poor and underserved, and his state is all the better for that service, and all the poorer for his death Sunday at the age of 74.
Spearman was the lawyer representing poor, rural students in the landmark Leandro cae, which resulted in a call for a “sound, basic education” for all students as guaranteed by the state constitution. Spearman intended to make the state stand by that promise on the long and winding road of Leandro. (Gov. Roy Cooper, to his credit, is continuing the focus on Leandro.)
But Spearman’s reach was longer. He also helped found and served as chair of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, which has done some of the most important public interest work in the state’s recent history. Spearman was a partner in the Parker Poe law firm.
Spearman was a brilliant and lively friend and a dedicated servant of the best interests of people who often were in desperate need of such a servant. He made important contributions to the state without seeking personal attention. North Carolina will in many ways be forever in his debt.