Raleigh, N.C. – Robert “Bob” Worthington Spearman, a beloved former partner in Parker Poe’s Raleigh office, died on December 3 at the age of 74. He was a remarkable trial lawyer who led the fight to ensure all public school students in North Carolina are granted their state constitutional right of a sound basic education.
As the News & Observer notes in an editorial about his life, Mr. Spearman represented poor, rural students in the landmark Leandro case, which established the N.C. constitutional right to a sound education. The case has resulted in an increase of more than $1 billion in funding for at-risk students in every county of North Carolina, and it continues today with Raleigh partner Melanie Dubis playing a leading role.
Mr. Spearman was a distinguished undergraduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill and law student at Yale Law School. He served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, helping him draft his most famous opinion in the "Pentagon Papers" case.
Mr. 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," the N&O wrote. "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"
In 1971, he entered private practice in North Carolina with Sanford, Cannon, Adams & McCullough, which later became Parker Poe. In addition to the Leandro case, he handled a wide array of antitrust and business litigation cases in state and federal courts. He retired in 2010.
You can read the News & Observer's editorial about Mr. Spearman here. The Washington Post published his obituary.