Remarks by Judge James C. Dever III upon the presentation of the 2008 A. Kenneth Pye Award to The Honorable Robinson O. Everett

April 18, 2008Duke Law News

President Broadhead, Dean Levi, Judge and Mrs. Everett, members of the Everett family, fellow alumni, and friends. I would be honored today simply to attend this ceremony concerning the presentation of the A. Kenneth Pye Award to our friend Robinson Everett. I am doubly honored to have been asked to make a few remarks about one of Duke’s legends and one of Duke’s treasures — Robinson Everett.

Initially, when discussing Robinson Everett, a person has to overcome the hurdle of deciding what to call him.

Judge Everett? That fits. President Carter appointed him to serve as the Chief Judge of what is now the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He served as the Chief Judge for ten years, an active judge for twelve years, and he has served as a senior judge since 1992.

Professor Everett? That fits. Robinson Everett joined the Duke Law faculty in 1950 at the age of 22, fresh out of Harvard Law School after graduating magna cum laude. Robinson Everett is the youngest person ever to teach at Duke Law School. After leaving Duke briefly in order to serve on active duty in the Air Force, Robinson Everett rejoined the Duke Law School faculty in 1957 and has taught continuously at Duke since 1957. Of course, Robinson Everett has not limited his teaching only to Duke. He also has taught law at the University of North Carolina School of Law and at the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Colonel Everett? That fits. Robinson Everett served in the Air Force both on active duty and in the Air Force Reserve. He was a highly respected Judge Advocate General and retired as a Colonel.

Robinson Everett Esquire? That fits. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Robinson Everett joined his legendary mother and father in the Everett & Everett Law Firm in Durham. Since that time, he has maintained an active law practice in Durham. As part of that practice, Robinson Everett has argued cases in every court in North Carolina (both state and federal), and also argued cases in the Supreme Court of the United States. Robinson Everett is such an accomplished lawyer that the North Carolina Bar Association named him to the NCBA General Practice Hall of Fame.

Robbie Everett? That fits. This extraordinary man is Durham’s own. He is a friend to thousands. He left Durham to attend Harvard at age 16, where he proceeded to receive both his undergraduate and law degree magna cum laude, and then returned home to Durham. After his return, he has lived the model life of a citizen. He has been active in the community, in his church, and with his beautiful family, including his lovely wife Lynn and their three sons Rob, Greg, and Luke.

The A. Kenneth Pye Award recognizes a member of the Duke Law School community whose work in education reflects the life and ideals exemplified by our former Dean A. Kenneth Pye. Dean Pye is fondly remembered for his personal integrity, towering intellect, and great compassion for his students. I was privileged to know Ken Pye as a student and as a friend. He lived these ideals. Robbie Everett does as well.

When reflecting on Robbie Everett’s attributes, three in particular come to mind: intellect, energy, and kindness.

As for Robbie Everett’s intellect, it is difficult to know where to begin. I have already mentioned his accomplishments as a student. As a scholar, however, he is recognized as a national expert in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, the UCMJ, Military Law, and National Security Law. He has taught and continues to teach in all of these areas. He has written hundreds of judicial opinions analyzing these topics. Additionally, Robbie Everett has published articles not only on those topics, but also on academic freedom, appellate advocacy, election law, government contract law, redistricting, real estate law, radio and television law, and secured transactions.

As for Robbie Everett’s energy, he has taught at Duke Law School for 50 years. In addition, he has had a full career as a Judge Advocate General in the Air Force, a full career as a federal judge, a full career as a Hall of Fame lawyer in North Carolina, and a full career as a member of the Duke Law School community. As a member of the Duke community, Robbie Everett has not only taught and produced first-rate scholarship, but he also has been the faculty advisor to the Duke Law Journal, Law & Contemporary Problems, and the Moot Court Board. He has served on countless Law School and University committees. He has been a mentor and a friend to thousands of students. Moreover, and most importantly, he has been a loving husband to the love of his life Lynn, a wonderful father to their three sons, an adoring grandfather, and a friend to all.

As for Robbie Everett’s kindness, you will be hard pressed to find a more kind and gentle soul. I say this based on over 20 years of friendship.

I first met Robbie Everett in 1984, when I entered Duke Law School. As an undergraduate, I had attended the University of Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship and then came to Duke to attend the Law School. Although I did not have a class with Judge Everett that first year, he gave a lecture on a topic, and I attended. After the lecture, we struck up a conversation about the Air Force. As the conversation was winding down, Judge Everett asked me what I was doing for dinner. I told him that I planned to return to my apartment and fix a bite to eat. He then invited me to his home for dinner. This was 1984. There were no cell phones. I knew, based on our conversation, that Judge Everett was married and had three boys. Although I was not too wise in the ways of the world, I knew that adding an uninvited guest to dinner in a busy home might not sit too well with Mrs. Everett. Although I felt a bit like a stray cat fortunate enough to have been scooped up by Judge Everett, I nevertheless accepted Judge Everett’s kind invitation.

We then drove to the Everett’s home. As we entered, Judge Everett called out to Lynn. He then introduced me to Lynn as one of his students and said, “I’ve brought Jim home for dinner.” Lynn calmly replied, “Wonderful, we’ll just set another place at the table.”

I realized at that moment that Judge Everett had done this many times before. Indeed, I bet if you asked Rob, Greg, and Luke, they would tell you that it was a rare evening when only the five Everetts ate dinner together. I also bet that if you asked the Duke Law alumni gathered here for this Reunion weekend, hundreds would have stories very similar to mine. Stories of wonderful dinners at the Everett home or perhaps at one of the Judge’s other favorite dining establishments — Bullock’s Barbeque in Durham.

During my final two years at Duke, we remained friends. In fact, I had the good fortune of taking two classes that Judge Everett taught and observed firsthand what a wonderful teacher he is.

After graduation, we remained in touch. I had a military service commitment arising from my ROTC scholarship and was fortunate enough to serve as a lawyer on the staff of the Air Force General Counsel at the Pentagon. Judge Everett, of course, continued to serve as the Chief Judge on his court in Washington, D.C.

In 1992, as my time on active duty was winding down, I met with Judge Everett to discuss my desire to return to North Carolina to practice law. Judge Everett immediately gave me a list of firms and “former students” at those firms whom I should contact. Ultimately, I did contact one of those firms and joined Maupin Taylor in Raleigh in October 1992.

While in private practice in Raleigh, I had the good fortune of working with Robinson Everett in his capacity as a lawyer. As many of you know, Robinson Everett filed and ultimately won a precedent- setting racial gerrymandering case in which he successfully challenged the North Carolina General Assembly’s congressional redistricting legislation.

During the course of the litigation, my law firm and I represented a group of plaintiffs who intervened on the same side as Robinson Everett. In that capacity, I was able to observe Robinson Everett’s extraordinary skill as an advocate. I also was able to observe something even more important than that.

Late one afternoon, we were working together in a conference room at my law firm. The redistricting litigation was hotly contested and demanded an extensive amount of time and effort. As so often happened in that case, we had yet another important filing due shortly and were finalizing it. As we were working, a phone call came into the conference room. Robinson took the call on the speaker phone. To his surprise and delight, the person calling was his son Greg. By this time in his life, Greg had become a successful entrepreneur in South Carolina. He was calling to let his Dad know that (unexpectedly) he would be in town later that evening. Greg knew that his Dad was in the middle of the redistricting litigation, but wanted to know if his Dad might have time for a late dinner.

I’ll never forget Robinson Everett’s response. “That would be wonderful, Greg. I am so excited that you called. I have to finish up this filing, and then stop by Duke to pick up an article I want to read for a class I’m teaching tomorrow, and then we can meet for dinner.” Greg said great, and they agreed on a time and place. Then, just before Robinson said good-bye and hung up, Robinson Everett — the Dad — said, “I love you, Greg.”

Folks, that story tells you all you need to know about Robbie Everett the man. In the midst of wearing one of the many professional hats that he has worn throughout his life, Robbie Everett has always remembered what truly matters. He has lived a life grounded in values that endure: love of God, love of country, love of family, and love of friends.

Robbie Everett is living proof of the paradox that the more a person gives to this world, the more a person receives in return. Robbie Everett has spent a lifetime giving to Duke Law School and to Duke students. Robbie Everett has spent a lifetime giving to Durham, to North Carolina, and to our nation. Robbie Everett has spent a lifetime giving to his beautiful wife Lynn and their sons Rob, Greg, and Luke.

I am humbled tonight to have the opportunity to say thank you to Robbie Everett. And so tonight, I proudly give thanks to Robbie Everett on behalf of his current and former colleagues here at Duke, on behalf of his current and former students here at Duke, on behalf of the veterans privileged to have served with him in the Air Force, on behalf of his friends in the federal judiciary, and on behalf of his loving family and friends.

Robbie, you are a legend and a treasure of this wonderful University, our wonderful State, and our wonderful nation.

In closing please know this: When it comes to Robbie Everett, as extraordinary as these first 50 years at Duke have been, we all know that the best is yet to be.

Congratulations and well done.
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