Whichard reviews book on Founding Father

February 13, 2006 | Leave a Comment

He doesn't have the narrative flair of a David McCullough or a Joseph Ellis, but Walter Stahr's "John Jay: Founding Father," is an excellent biography of one of the nation's least publicized but most important historical figures. The Honorable Willis Whichard, dean of the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University, reviewed Stahr's book for the October 2005 issue of "The North Carolina Historical Review."

"Walter Stahr, an international lawyer with a long-standing interest in the American Revolution, has now rendered a new and enhanced account of the life and work of John Jay, who was one of the most significant of the founders," Whichard said. "Drawing on substantial new material, Stahr paints a comprehensive and interesting portrait of both the public and private man."

Jay was one of the youngest delegates to the first Continental Congress in 1774. He served six years as governor of New York and was prominent in the first ranks of American leadership. He was also one of the last American leaders to shift from resistance to revolution. He served as president of the Continental Congress, American representative to Spain, France and England, secretary for foreign affairs under the Confederation and chief justice of the U.S.

"John Adams thought Jay was "of more importance than any of the rest, indeed of almost as much weight as all the rest,'' Whichard quotes Stahr. 'He deserves substantial credit for the view that a strong national government was necessary; for the doctrine of the supremacy of national law; for his essays in support of the Constitution; and for persuading a majority in New York to ratify.' A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, Whichard was elected to the state Supreme Court in 1986 and served until 1998. He is the only North Carolinian in the history of the state to serve in both houses of the Legislature and on both of the state's appellate courts. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1970-1974 and served as a North Carolina senator from 1974-1980. Whichard also served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 1980-1986, and was a practicing attorney with the Durham law firm of Powe, Porter, Alphin and Whichard. As dean of the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Whichard's influence has certainly been felt. Under his leadership, the American Bar Association approved a cooperative education program between newly founded Handong International School of Law in Korea and the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, a program which Whichard and law professors Lynn Buzzard and Alan Button helped to develop. His book, Justice James Iredell, is the only definitive biography of the man who led the state's Federalists in supporting ratification of the Constitution and was later appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President George Washington. The book was selected for inclusion in the annual Outstanding Academic Title list which appears in 'Choice' magazine and is published by a division of the American Library Association. In 2002, Whichard was presented the Christopher Crittenden Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in history by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. He received the Distinguished Service Medal from the University of North Carolina in 2004 and was elected to the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation that same year. Whichard earned both a Master of Laws (LL.M) and a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) from the University of Virginia.

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