Wake County

AP Carlton, former head of American Bar Association, dies in Raleigh

A.P. Carlton speaks as the new president of the American Bar Association in August 2002 in Washington, D.C.
A.P. Carlton speaks as the new president of the American Bar Association in August 2002 in Washington, D.C. N&O File

Alfred P. Carlton Jr., a gregarious Raleigh corporate lawyer and a former president of the American Bar Association, died Thursday at age 69.

Carlton, a North Carolina native with a distinct and booming Southern drawl, was known not only for his deal-making ability but his respect for tradition. He was remembered as a colorful character who mentored and befriended many in the upper echelons of North Carolina’s legal community, as well as playing a national role while serving as president of the ABA from 2002 to 2003.

“AP leaves behind an incredible legacy of service to our state and country,” said North Carolina’s Chief Justice Mark Martin, calling Carlton by his initials as most people did. “I was fortunate to know AP as both a colleague and personal friend for many years. We will all miss his professionalism, integrity and kindness.”

Carlton began his career as a banking lawyer and later became staff counsel for the N.C. Bankers Association before moving on to be general counsel for the Bank of North Carolina.

When he was about to become the face and voice of America’s legal profession as head of the ABA, Carlton went in with a plan to champion causes such as changing the way judges are chosen, improving poor people’s access to lawyers and reshaping the image of the group’s reputation in Congress and beyond.

Carlton was remembered by the ABA’s current president, Linda Klein, for pushing for judicial selection and campaign reform. He helped shape the association’s effort launched after the Enron bankruptcy scandal to create law and other policies related to corporate responsibility and the role of lawyers in corporate governance.

“AP was ABA president during the overthrow of the Iraq government in March 2003,” Klein said in her statement “In April, he and the association’s Board of Governors established the ABA Iraq Initiative, with a charge to further the rule of law in Iraq by drawing on the association’s experience in providing legal technical assistance to developing democracies.”

Carlton also was a former member and chairman of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Board of Trustees, member of the Elon University Law School Board of Advisors, member of the Board of Directors of the University of North Carolina Center for Banking and Finance, and adviser on an upcoming Campbell Law School symposium.

Though Carlton was born in Raleigh, his family moved to Greensboro during his childhood.

Law and politics often were discussed around the Carlton family dinner table, he said in an interview in 2001, fueling his interest in becoming a lawyer. That interest grew during his undergraduate years at UNC-Chapel Hill, but he did not attend law school there until he did a stint in the U.S. Air Force between his graduation in 1969 and his beginning of law classes in 1973.

Brown-Wynne Funeral Home on St. Mary’s Street in Raleigh is handling the funeral, but no service time had been set as of Thursday evening.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1