Bob Spearman, a North Carolina attorney who represented poor, rural students in the landmark Leandro v. State of North Carolina education case, died Sunday at the age of 74.
Spearman died after dealing with dementia and Parkinson’s disease, according to an obituary reported by EducationNC.
Spearman was “an honored trial lawyer who led the legal fight to breathe life into the North Carolina Constitution’s guarantee of a sound basic education for all public school students,” the obitary says.
According to his obituary, Spearman was a graduate of Yale Law School and clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black during his final term. He helped Black write the opinion in the “Pentagon Papers” case.
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Spearman entered private practice in Raleigh in 1971 and tackled several legal matters, including antitrust cases as well as commercial and business litigation. But it was perhaps his role on the Leandro case that had the longest-reaching impact on North Carolina education.
“The Leandro case, which was filed in 1994 and is still pending, resulted in two major State Supreme Court opinions,” the obituary says. “The first ruled that North Carolina schoolchildren have a judicially enforceable constitutional right to a sound and basic education. The second affirmed a series of later superior court decisions after trials, and held the State had wrongfully denied this right to many State schoolchildren.”
Spearman was also a founder and chair of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research. He retired from Parker Poe in 2010.
According to his obituary, “a celebration of Bob’s life will be held at a later date.”
His family suggests that memorial contributions be made to The Carolina Covenant Scholarships General Fund, Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, P.O. Box 1080, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-1080.
Spearman is survived by his wife of 44 years, Patricia Hinds Spearman, two daughters and four grandchildren, according to his obituary.