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Leading Off: In Memory of Allan Head

Leading Off: In Memory of Allan Head

“The true test of a man’s character,” John Wooden famously stated, “is what he does when no one is watching.” With all due respect to the legendary college basketball coach, character is also revealed in how a man responds when he isn’t holding many cards, and the ones he is holding are bad.

That was the hand Allan Head was left with at the end of his life. The man who served the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina Bar Foundation for 43 years, including 35 years as executive director, fought a long and determined battle with cancer that ended in February.

Up until the very end, he maintained the faith and positive outlook – the character – that sustained him throughout his 73 years on this earth. With his wife of 50 years, Patti, constantly by his side, they faced their extended “bend in the road” with dignity, grace, determination and, above all else, love.

While himself a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, Allan embraced the mantra of the prospective Navy SEALs, who are implored during their training to never quit, to never give up, to never “ring the bell.” He never did. He never rang the bell.

Instead, in keeping with his own remarkable sense of optimism, he never believed that the parking lot was full – he always believed that a space would open up for him. This was the message he conveyed to the Young Lawyers Division in 2016, appropriately marking his final remarks at an NCBA Annual Meeting as executive director.

Tributes, some of which appear in this edition of North Carolina Lawyer beginning on page 37, poured in almost immediately as news of his death spread.

Past presidents of this organization and former chairs of the Paralegal Division collected their condolences and reflections. Members from across the state and bar executives from across the country shared their memories and warmest wishes.

Heartfelt expressions of gratitude and praise continued over the course of two memorial services, just as they will continue for years to come. And for all of the individuals who have extended their appreciation for his countless contributions to their lives and careers, hundreds if not thousands more have their own stories to tell.

In short, they’ll never make another one like him. They won’t even come close.  

The preceding tribute appeared in the May 2018 edition of North Carolina Lawyer magazine.