In an early life suitable for a Tom Clancy novel and a later life qualifying for one of the highest offices of our country, Hiram Hamilton Ward (’50) exemplified “Pro Humanitate” and his love of Wake Forest has been matched by few.
The Early Years
Tom Brokaw called them “the greatest generation,” and United States District Judge Frank Bullock described his friend Hiram Ward as one of “the greatest generation’s” greatest members. Born in Thomasville, N.C., in 1923 and raised during the Depression on a family farm outside of Denton, Ward was an adventurer who loved the outdoors, hunting and fishing. Under the tutelage of his older brother, he learned to fly a small airplane while he was still in high school. He was the first boy in Denton to become an Eagle Scout, an experience he relied on and cherished the remainder of his life. Ward’s hometown adventures, however, would pale in comparison to what was to come, as he documented in his wartime diaries.
Aware of the war in Europe and sensing involvement by the United States in the near future, Ward sought to enlist in the United States Army Air Corp following graduation from Denton High School in 1940. At age 17 he was unable to do so without his parents’ consent. His parents agreed and in October 1940, Ward reported for basic training at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., near St. Louis. Assigned to the 12th Bombardment Group, 83rd Bombardment Squadron, Ward lacked the age and education to qualify for military pilot training, and when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 19411, Ward was training to become a radio operator and aircraft mechanic. In the spring and early summer of 1942, Ward and the 83rd Bombardment Squadron, flying an early version of the B-252, flew patrols in search of Japanese submarines off the West Coast and, perhaps an omen of things to come, practiced bombing and close air support missions in the California desert.
Flight to the Front
In July of 1942, Ward and the 83rd relocated to MacDill Field, outside of Tampa, Fla., and prepared to deploy to Africa where Adolph Hitler’s forces under the command of Erwin Rommel were advancing on the Suez Canal and the oil fields of the Middle East. The range of B-25’s prevented a direct flight across the Atlantic Ocean so an indirect route was required. On July 23, 1942 the 83rd flew south from Florida, to Puerto Rico, to Trinidad, to Belen, Brazil, arriving in Natal, Brazil, the eastern most tip of South America, four days later. On July 29, the 83rd left Natal heading east across the Atlantic Ocean, landing on the Ascension Islands, 1,400 miles from the coast of South America, 8 1/2 hours later. The
following day, the 83rd flew an additional 1,000 miles from the Ascension Islands to Accra, Ghana on the Gold Coast of Africa. This extraordinary trip across the Atlantic from South America to Africa was performed using crude navigational instruments of the day – a compass, a sextant and, as range allowed, rudimentary radio directional instruments. From Accra, the 83rd flew to Kano (Nigeria), Madiriguri (Nigeria), to Khartoum (Angola-Egyptian Sudan). A few months after his 18th birthday, Ward wrote that his plane landed “at Khartoum after dark and in the rain on a dimly lit by flare pot runway.”
As the B-25s of the 83rd were making their way to the Egyptian delta, the British forces commanded by Major General Neil Ritchie and the German forces under Field Marshall Erwin Rommel were fighting for control of North Africa, a stalemate between two exhausted forces. On Aug. 19, 1942, Ward’s plane arrived in the combat zone “after shooting off the prescribed flares, circling the designated points and following the routed corridors.” In the following months, the 83rd, with Ward now assigned the additional duty as gunner, repulsed Rommel’s “end run” to break through the El Alamein line at Alma Halfa. Historians universally regard the battle of El Alamein as the turning point in the Germans’ efforts to capture the Suez Canal and one if not the most important battle in shortening the war with Germany. The American B-25s are credited with making the most significant contribution to the victory. The devastation brought by the 83rd was so severe that Rommel himself called the squadron “the Earth Quakers.”
In the months that followed, Ward and the B-25s of the 83rd, flying close air support for British ground forces, pursued the German forces as they retreated West along the southern shore of the Mediterranean – through places like Ismailia (Egypt), Gambut (Libya), Magrun (Libya), Costel Benito (Libya), El Assa (Libya), Medenine (Tunisia), Sfax (Tunisia) and Hergla (Tunisia) until the German forces fled North Africa. The pace of the pursuit was so intense that the bombers of the 83rd rarely returned to the airstrip from which they had departed, their ground support ever moving their base field westward in pursuit of the retreating enemy.
Ward and the 83rd spent the next six months bombing Italian and German forces in Italy from places such as Ponte Olive (Sicily), Gerbini (Sicily), Foggia (Italy) and Gaudo (Italy). On the morning of Feb. 2, 1944, an announcement was posted on 83rd Squadron Flight Operations Board which read simply “Prepare for overseas movement as you have dropped your last bomb in Italy.” Ward and other flight crew members were advised “we would be taking only our personal belongings.”
Ward described the trip: “On Feb. 6, 1944, we departed for Taranto (Italy) in a truck convoy, arriving there late that night. No provisions had been made for us so we lived on cold rations and water and slept in bombed out buildings on the harbor waterfront. On the afternoon of Feb. 8th, we boarded the British troop ship ‘Dilmara’ (packed like sardines) and that night steamed south into the Mediterranean Sea. The next morning the rumors that we were going home to become a training group for overseas combat were dashed – we were heading east instead of west.”
The journey took Ward through Port Said (Egypt) to Camp Huckstep (Egypt), near Heliopolis (one of the oldest cities in ancient Egypt) just North of Cairo (Egypt) for two weeks of R&R (rest and relaxation) where Ward would recount that “the food was good and you could even get candy bars, ice cream, hamburgers and Coca Colas.” But war time R&R is short and on Feb. 29, 1944, the now 20-year-old Ward once again boarded the Dilmara leaving Port Tewfik at the east end of the Suez Canal, and sailed through the Gulf of Suez, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, arriving in Bombay, India on March 12, 1944. From Bombay, the 83rd boarded a narrow gauge train across central India to Calcutta where the men were met by trucks that transported the men to riverboats which took them “upstream” to Dacca where more trucks took them on the final leg of their journey to Kurmatola (India).
Ward wrote: “We arrived at Kurmatola, India (now Bangladesh) March 21, 1944 to find a steel matt runway on a strip that the Army engineers had cleared in the jungle. Disbursed around the field were new B-25Hs & B-25Js just flown over from the States by the Air Corps Ferry Command. The aircraft were parked in U-shaped earthen revetments. Further back in the jungle were dispersed buildings called “bashas.” These were made of split bamboo sides with a thick thatched roof and concrete floor. Several brick and cement washrooms were scattered through the basha area so we no longer had to bathe from a steel helmet. Once ground crews checked out the new planes, the 83rd began transitional flying to familiarize themselves with the new aircraft, and within a few days, the squadron was flying missions against the Japanese forces in Burma in support of General Stillwell’s efforts to keep the Japanese ground forces away from the Burma Road.
Shot Down Over Burma
On July 9, 1944, Ward flew his 54th (and last) mission in which he narrowly escaped death. He described the harrowing mission and the events of the next few days as follows:
“Our target was in the Myitkyina area of Northern Burma. The weather was poor in East India but we were informed that it was clear over the Burma Valley. As usual on long missions, we landed at Comilla on the way out to refuel. While it was a nine-plane mission, two planes had to drop out – one with engine problems and the second with a bad tire when we landed to refuel. The remaining seven planes continued with the mission and after we crossed the Chin Hills [a mountain
range which runs from Burma into India] and into Burma, the weather was, as predicted, good. As we were trying to get back into formation after coming through the bad weather over the Chin Hills, we were jumped by Japanese fighter
planes. Some of our men say there were 16 Jap planes while others counted 13 planes. In any event, we had a running fight for several minutes and knocked several of the Jap planes down before the P-51s arrived to get the Japs off our
back. I was credited with one Zero. Our top turret gunner was killed, I was wounded and the tail gunner and the
photographer both had slight shrapnel wounds from the Japanese fighter’s explosive shells. Our left inboard tank had blue flame like a blow torch shooting out of two holes in the tank. We were not getting full power from the right engine
so we dropped the bottom hatches and threw everything of weight overboard. By then we were down too low to bail out.
We kept losing altitude until we were almost at the top level with only jungle in sight ahead. Suddenly we saw an opening ahead, probably an abandoned rice paddy, so we belly landed in the water, muck and mire of the opening. To our
amazement, the gas tank did not explode. The fire on the top of the left wing tank was undoubtedly smothered by the water and mud which came over the leading edge of the wing as we landed. We scurried out of the plane and to a hillside in the jungle about 500 yards away. What we originally thought was smoke rising from the plane turned out to be vapor from the hot engines submerged in water. When I got down, I could not get up. I had lost a lot of blood from the wounds in each thigh and the right groin. A couple of our crew members went back to the plane and got our parachute back packs which contained the first aid kits and emergency rations. They then cut away my trousers, put pressure bandages over
the four largest wounds to stop the bleeding and gave me an injection of an entire tube of Novocain, which actually contained two doses. This was about 3 p.m. I do not remember much about that night except that I became nauseated from the overdose of Novocain, that it was raining hard, and that mosquitoes all but carried me away. Sometime the next day 15 or 16 Oriental soldiers came to our airplane, took a look inside, picked up our trail and came straight to me. They turned out to be Kachin guerrillas enlisted by the OSS to fight behind the lines for the British and American forces. The Kachins were under the command of an English and an Indian officer. The Kachins hated the Japanese because of the treatment they and their race received from the Japanese when they overran Burma. Kachins were small, wiry
people about 5’2” – 5’4” tall. They knew the Burmese jungle as well as they knew their own home. Within minutes they constructed a stretcher from bamboo poles, vines and my parachute. They carried me out of the jungle sometimes
wadding in water up to their chest. They avoided open areas and any area where we might be seen by anyone, especially the Japanese. We arrived at the guerrilla camp in the jungle about dark. An Indian doctor worked on my legs while others held me down as the doctor had nothing with which to kill the pain. I must have passed out again because it was daylight when I awoke.
“The following day, Tuesday, July 11th, we learned that the P-51s, who knew where we went down, had notified the OSS and that the Kachin Guerrillas had been sent out to rescue us before the Japanese could get to us. That afternoon an L-5 Grasshopper3, which the army used as an artillery spotter, circled the guerrillas camp at tree top level and dropped a note requesting that a strip be cleared for him to land. The Kachins had this done within a few minutes and the L-5 landed with practically no roll out. I was placed on a stretcher in the rear of the plane. The pilot, a Sergeant Anderson, sked my crew members to hold the tail [of the plane] while he applied the brakes and gave it full throttle. At his signal they released the tail, we bounded down the strip a few yards and were airborne. Avoiding Japanese positions and Myitkyina,
which was held by the Japanese, we finally landed at strip northwest of Myitkyina, and I was carried to Dr. Gordon Seagrave’s tent. Dr. Seagrave (The Burma Surgeon) cleaned my wounds, cutting away dead flesh, and applied sulfa
powder. He then dressed the wounds and said the military would get me to the 20th General Field Hospital the next day.”
Return to the U.S.
On July 12, Ward was moved by air to the United States Army 20th General Hospital in Ledo, India: “Shrapnel was removed from my right groin and one piece from my right leg. Small fragments were removed from my right hand and face. A temporary cap was place over the broken tooth. The surgeon indicated the rest could be done in the USA.
On July 31, Ward was discharged from the medical unit and reassigned to the rehabilitation unit, “graduated from crutches to a cane in late August,” and subsequently returned to the 83rd Squadron where he awaited the completion of paperwork for his return to the United States. On Sept. 22, Ward received orders and a one-way ticket for the Air Corp Ferry Command aircraft to transport him from Calcutta, India, to New York. After colleagues from the 83rd flew him to Calcutta, he was flown from Calcutta to Karachi, India, on Sept. 23rd, Karachi to Abadan, Iran, on Sept. 24th, Abadan to Cairo, Egypt, on Sept. 25th, Cairo to Tunis, Tunisia, on Sept. 26th, Tunis to Casablanca, Morocco, on Sept. 27th, and
Casablanca to the Azores on Sept. 30th. There he boarded a C-54 hospital aircraft refueling in Newfoundland on Oct. 1st and landed at LaGuardia Field in New York in mid-morning of Oct. 2, 1944.
Ward’s orders required him to report to Redistribution Station No. 2 in Miami, Fla., but allowed a 22-day delay in route furlough. He caught a train to High Point and was reunited with his family before traveling on to Miami on Oct. 25, 1944. In December, while in Miami, Ward underwent further operations to remove 13 additional fragments of shrapnel from his right thigh so he could walk without a limp. However, the surgeons were unable to remove a number of additional fragments which he carried with him for the remainder of this life.
He was then reassigned to Boca Raton, Fla., to await discharge. On May 17, 1945, Ward began travel from Boca Raton to the Separation Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he was “[s]eparated from the service with an Honorable Discharge, back pay and a one-way bus ticket to Denton, North Carolina.”
Medically discharged on May 20th, with numerous pieces of shrapnel remaining in his body and a partial disability, Ward had served four years and seven months, of which half – two years and three months – had been overseas. Less than a month after his t22nd birthday, he was one of a relatively small number of Americans who had fought on three continents against all of the major Axis powers – Germany, Italy and Japan. Ward had risen to the rank of Technical Sergeant United States Army Air Corp, received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal along with Presidential Unit Citation, American Defense Medal, Europe-African Middle East Theater Ribbon with five campaign stars, the Asiatic Pacific Theater Medal with one bronze service star, and WWII Victory Medal. Ward was ready to move on to the next phase of his young life.
Wake Forest and Evelyn
In the fall of 1945, Ward and his friend, Elwood Dockham, enrolled in North Carolina State University, moved their personal belongings in their newly assigned dormitory room, and drove Ward’s new used car approximately 20 miles to Wake Forest, N.C., to visit his Aunt Snyner. Ruth was married to Everett Snyder, who managed the Wake Forest College book store and soda shop. It was a life-altering day.
Everett Snyder wanted Ward to attend Wake Forest and was not to be denied. He presented the Wake Forest campus to Ward and Dockham and promised Ward a job in the book store to allow him to earn the additional money needed to attend Wake Forest. Everett identified a room for them to rent at one of the fraternity houses and introduced the young men to the Registrar of the college, Grady Patterson, who promised to handle the paperwork. By the end of the day, Ward and Dockham were students, enrolled at Wake Forest College, returning to Raleigh only to retrieve their personal belongings and leaving behind an empty dormitory room. Wake Forest was a comfortable environment of 400 students, and Ward developed a lasting relationship with Everett Snyder, hunting and fishing with him frequently.
Early in the first semester, Snyder introduced Ward to the lovely Evelyn McDaniel, a student from Florida. A warm friendship developed, then grew. Ward, a serious student, completed his undergraduate studies at Wake Forest College less than two years after stepping foot on campus.4 He married Evelyn McDaniel on June 1, 1947.
Influenced greatly by a business law course taught by legendary Wake Forest Professor Edgar W. Timberlake, Ward’s thoughts turned to law school. After reflection, including the thought that he might already be too old to attend law school at age 24, he was persuaded to the contrary by his father-in-law as well as his father’s close friend, Sim DeLapp, a prominent Lexington, N.C., lawyer. Ward enrolled in Wake Forest Law School in the fall of 1947. He was a diligent student and graduated in the spring of 1950, third in his law school class. The relationships he developed those five years would be close to his heart for the rest of his life – Evelyn, the Law and Wake Forest.
Knowing of Ward’s desire to practice law in his hometown, which had never had a lawyer, DeLapp encouraged Ward to run for the North Carolina House of Representatives when the law school experience was coming to a close. DeLapp counseled Ward that he “needed to work to be recognized as lawyer,” rather than to be the 17-year old boy people would remember from 10 years earlier. Hiram took Sim’s advice to heart. Evelyn Ward recalls her husband having no real expectation of winning, but eating lots of chicken and barbeque dinners andspeechifying in an attempt to publicize his name in the community. Being doggedly persistent and equally persuasive, traits exhibited since his childhood and galvanized by his life’s experiences, Ward came close to defeating a long-time, deeply entrenched local politician, losing
by less than 1,000 votes.
The Practice of Law
As Ward explored his options for the practice of law, a local bank promised him its title work if he would return home to Denton, which he did, becoming the first lawyer ever to establish an office in Denton. In the following years, his practice consisted of the promised title work, other real estate work, probate work, criminal matters in the lower court, and an occasional appearance in Superior Court in criminal and civil matters.
At Wake Forest Law School, Ward became close with one of his professors, I. Beverly Lake, Sr. When Lake accepted an appointment with the National Production Authority (NPA) in Washington, D.C., Ward joined him in July of 1951 as a staff attorney and served as Lake’s first assistant for approximately nine months. The NPA was created as part of the Department of Commerce in September of 1950, shortly after the commencement of the Korean War. It was
tasked with promoting production and supply of materials necessary for recently commenced
defense mobilization. Nine months after Ward moved to Washington, D.C., Lake returned to
North Carolina, joining the North Carolina Attorney General’s office. Ward returned as well,
joining his father’s close friend, Sim DeLapp, in forming DeLapp & Ward in April of 1952, a
general practice law firm in Lexington, North Carolina. The new firm continued DeLapp’s
general practice, trying civil and criminal cases in all state and federal courts across North
Carolina. Also, during 1951 and 1952, Ward was the Southern Representative for the
Eisenhower for President Campaign, traveling throughout the South organizing support and
speaking on behalf of General Dwight Eisenhower, who was elected as the 34th President of the
United States in November of 1952.
In addition to his active trial practice, Ward agreed to serve as Interim Judge of Denton
Recorder’s Court following the death of the judge. He also served three terms on the North
Carolina State Board of Elections, a five person board with quasi-judicial authority, charged with
responsibility for administration of the election process throughout the state. Following reports
of massive voter fraud in Madison County, North Carolina, Ward, serving as Chairman, oversaw
the election fraud investigation and proceedings in 1964. Later in 1964, he was appointed by
United States District Judge Edward M. Stanley of the Middle District of North Carolina as
Chairman of the Federal Land Condemnation Commission for the Kerr Scott Dam Reservoirs.
Over the next year, Ward held hearings, received evidence and determined the “just
compensation” to be paid to landowners of over one hundred separate tracts of land taken by the
government to create the reservoir. Every case decided by the Commission that was appealed
was confirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Lest one think that Ward was totally consumed by this work as a lawyer, he renewed his
interest in flying and purchased a Cessna 180. Always the cautious one, prepared for the
unexpected, Ward insisted that Evelyn learn to fly, which she did and they enjoyed many family
trips with their two sons that his busy legal practice allowed.
Reflecting on the most important cases of his practicing career, the lawyers with whom
he regularly jousted and the judges before whom he frequently appeared, Ward’s list is both
varied and impressive. Ward’s career includes handling successfully a significant plaintiff’s
personal injury case, avoiding the death penalty by pleading temporary insanity for a man
charged with the brutal murder of his estranged wife and her lover, obtaining an acquittal based
on self-defense where the deceased, after making threatening advances on the defendant and his
wife, was shot and killed with a 22 caliber pistol with only one of the five rounds entering the
deceased body from the front. Ward represented Branch Bank &Trust Company before the
North Carolina Banking Commission and the follow-up appeal to the Supreme Court in its
efforts to open two branches in Davidson County, opposed by Lexington State Bank, and in a
very protracted action removed a “cloud” from the title of stock of six different companies and
obtained a declaration that a complex contract between the companies was valid and enforceable.
Ward aided clients in establishing new laws in North Carolina, including important laws
establishing the power of the bankruptcy courts.
These civil and criminal cases were tried with and against some of the finest lawyers in
this area of the United States, real lions of the North Carolina Bar, including Claude Pierce,
Hubert Humphrey, Bynum Hunter, Ralph Stockton, McNeil Smith, Walter Brinkley, Don
Walser, Weston Hatfield, Roy Hall, Norwood Robinson, John Minor, Bill Davis, Sim DeLapp,
Wade Phillips, W.P. Sandridge, Charles Kivett, Doug Albright, Ed Washington, and tried before
some of the most respected judges of the day – legends of the bench – including John J. Parker,
Edward M. Stanley, Rufus Reynolds, Johnson Hayes, H.H. Hubbard, Hamilton Hobgood, John
McLaughlin, Walter Johnson, George Ragsdale, Walter Crissman, Robert Martin, Edward Clark.
The Bench and Wake Forest -
United States District Judge Edward M. Stanley died unexpectedly in December of 1971.
It is of little wonder that, with his extraordinary knowledge of the law and broad experience,
Ward was immediately recognized as an able replacement notwithstanding strong competition
from other members of the Bar. Ward was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon on
May 18, 1972, confirmed by the United States Senate on June 28, 19725, and sworn in as a
United States District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina on July 12, 1972.6
Ward’s career on the bench tracked in many respects his early adult life in the military,
his experiences in law school, and his time as a practicing attorney. Just as he saw early action
in World War II, within days of becoming a federal judge, Ward presided over a confrontation
which had been brewing between Pilot Freight Carriers and the Teamsters Union for two years.
The controversy had been previously addressed by an arbitration panel and courts in two
different states. Pilot obtained permission from the Interstate Commerce Commission to conduct
business in Florida, which expanded the freight carrier’s operations from Boston to Miami. The
underlying legal question was whether the Teamsters had the right to represent the Pilot drivers
in Florida in labor negotiations, as the Teamsters did in North Carolina. The Teamsters
submitted the question to a regional industry grievance committee, which sided with the
Teamsters. Pilot contended that the contact did not apply, contending that only the national
industry grievance committee had jurisdiction to hear the dispute. Thus, Pilot was of the view
that the regional industry grievance committee was without authority to decide the issue, and its
decision was without binding effect. As a result, Pilot refused to recognize the Teamsters’ right
to represent Florida drivers. With Pilot refusing to honor the award of the regional industry
grievance committee, the Teamsters organized a nationwide strike of Pilot’s operations. This
resulted in organized Pilot drivers across the United States refusing to drive. The strike crippled
Pilot’s operations, and Pilot was forced to lay off thousands of workers.
Immediately after the Teamsters’ organized the strike, Pilot commenced a lawsuit against
the Teamsters in federal court in Tampa and moved for an injunction prohibiting the Teamsters
from continuing its strike. A federal judge in Tampa denied Pilot’s request. Pilot commenced a
somewhat narrow legal action in Winston-Salem, North Carolina Superior Court and obtained a
temporary restraining order prohibiting Teamsters from striking in North Carolina. The suit also
sought in excess of $10,000,000 from the Teamsters and claimed that Pilot was losing $200,000
a day as a result of the strike. As allowed by federal law, the Teamsters removed the North
Carolina state court action to the United States District Court for the Middle District of North
Carolina where the Teamsters sought to have the injunction dissolved, allowing the North
Carolina strike to continue. Pilot moved to have the North Carolina injunction enforced until
trial. A hearing on the motion in this complex matter was set before the recently appointed
Judge Ward, just 15 days after he was sworn in as a federal judge.
Ward possessed no previous experience with the complex issues of union and labor law.
Yet, after studying the legal memoranda of the parties and listening to witnesses and arguments
for two days, he handed down a decision described by commentators and noted labor law
scholars as completely correct. Neither party appealed. The intense focus and accuracy of the
decision surprised no one who knew Ward and foreshadowed the pace by which Ward moved
through the next 16 years as a United States District Court Judge. Immediately after issuing his
ruling to a courtroom packed by the parties and the press in the Pilot – Teamsters case, Ward
returned to the quiet of his chamber and before the end of the day entered a final judgment in a
case he inherited from deceased Judge Stanley that restricted professional basketball player and
former University of North Carolina star Billy Cunningham, then playing for the Philadelphia
76ers of the National Basketball Association, from playing for any team other than the Carolina
Cougars of the American Basketball Association. So the widely varied was the early legal life of
Hiram Ward, Federal District Court Judge.
In the following years, Ward presided over cases alleging illegal and discriminatory
firing because of race and age by corporations and municipalities, and he upheld the
constitutionality of numerous North Carolina statutes, including a statute which prohibited
collective bargaining by public employees and a statute which proscribed certain conduct at
massage parlors. Although he took his job seriously and was thought by most lawyers who
appeared before him to be a stern taskmaster, there was a lighter side as was evident in his
opinion upholding Durham’s massage parlor statute in which he wrote “[t]his case represents a
touchy situation in which it will be impossible not to rub one of the parties the wrong way.”
He tried one of the first computer software cases presented in North Carolina which lasted for
weeks and was significant in that few of the jurors knew what a computer was, much less owned
North Carolina led the nation in bank robberies during this time, primarily because North
Carolina was one of the few states that allowed branch banking. Rarely a criminal session of
court passed without at least one robbery of some description on the docket. One of the most
fascinating was the “jack in the box” case where the perpetrators conspired to ship one of their
accomplices from Greensboro to Atlanta on an Eastern Airlines flight in a large box. The plan
was the co-conspirator would exit the box, steal millions of dollars of securities from a Wells
Fargo container, and return to the box with the securities to be retrieved in Atlanta by his coconspirators.
Like almost every bank robber during this time, the perpetrators either pled guilty
or were convicted and found themselves resident in a federal penitentiary.
In a case symbolic of the turbulent 1970’s, Lyle Snider, a Quaker tax protester claimed
everyone in the world was his dependent on his federal tax return and refused to pay federal
taxes based on his belief that the war in Vietnam and Cambodia was illegal. To further his
protection against the government, Snider, along with his wife, declined to follow the customary
practice of standing at the beginning and end of a court session as the judge enters or leaves the
courtroom. Ward explained to them that the custom takes place not as any personal homage or
honor to the judge but out of respect for the system and as an object reminder to everyone,
including the judge, that the controversies then before the court are to be treated with respect and
seriousness and that equal justice is to be dispensed to all. Those words – that the controversies
then before the court are to be treated with respect and seriousness and that equal justice is to be
dispensed to all – were core beliefs of Ward.
Ward also tried a number of unusual bank related white collar criminal cases. He tried
several Burlington doctors charged with misapplication of bank funds and whose conduct, as
bank directors, led to the failure of a Burlington bank. He also tried numerous cases related to
malfeasance at the then Northwestern Bank, which later merged into First Union, then into
Wachovia, then into Wells Fargo. The cases included misapplication of bank funds by the
bank’s president, Edwin Duncan, and related cases where bank officials engaged in illegal
electronic eavesdropping of both the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Internal Revenue
Service. After his unsuccessful appeal, Edwin Duncan paid Ward a high compliment.
I never really thought those convictions would be overturned, mainly because I
thought the judge who presided over my trials [Hiram Ward] did a damned good
job of handling the cases. I never talked to him outside the courtroom, but he
seemed like a good fellow, and it was obvious to me he knew what he was doing.
[Greensboro Daily News, October 24, 1979.]
Ward was not shy about righting wrongs. In a class action commenced by Forsyth
County Legal Aid, he determined that Forsyth Memorial Hospital had not met its legal
obligations to provide indigent care as required by the Hill Burton Act. He ordered the hospital
to advise patients that they may qualify for free health care upon admission, to make prompt
decisions with regard to which patients will be treated free, and to adopt strict guidelines
regulating the transfer of patients out of the hospital.
The nature and quantity of the cases in the federal courts of North Carolina and how they
were administered underwent dramatic changes during the time Ward served. When he first
went on the bench, Ward was one of two judges to service six courthouses throughout the
district. The judge and staff would travel to each of these courthouses twice a year for a weekly
criminal and then a weekly civil session, in effect riding the circuit. Life was more leisurely and
interaction with the Bar more frequent, intimate and casual. The cases were simpler, for
example, “moonshine” (non-tax paid liquor), bank robbery and contract disputed. The court
functioned more like it had since its beginning.
All that quickly changed during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Caseloads doubled every ten
years during the time Ward sat on the bench. This necessitated abandoning the circuit riding
system to one where the litigants and attorneys came to the judge at one of three courthouses.
The complexity of the cases also grew. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the late
1960s, Ward’s court became a leader in resolving hotly contested, emotionally packed and
complicated class action, racial discrimination cases. Other forms of discrimination cases soon
filled the court’s docket and then came complicated environmental, intellectual property and
more complex business lawsuits. Drug and gun cases dominated and overwhelmed the criminal
docket. The life of a federal judge went from being more akin to a genial overseer of disputes to
being more like a business manager efficiently producing an almost infinite variety of written
products. Every case could and often did require Ward, his colleagues and their staffs to
become “experts” in a different area of law. The pace was at times hectic and so very different
from what Ward expected when he took the job. Yet, he did it and did it extremely well as the
litigants and attorneys who appeared before him will attest. In order to unwind, Ward would
return to his beloved Denton home and cabin for a restorative in the peaceful land of his
ancestors he called “God’s Country.” It being one of his two loves (aside from his family and
friends), the other being Wake Forest. He would often hunt with his close friend Fred Crumpler
and often fish with fellow Wake Forest graduates – the Deacon Fishing Club.
Ward planned to stay on the bench as Chief Judge until his replacement was confirmed
because he did not want his departure to increase the workload of his fellow judges. Because of
delays in Washington, however, it became evident that doing so would prevent his friend and
fellow Judge Richard Erwin from becoming the first African American Chief District Court
Judge in North Carolina and the second in the South. Federal law precluded a judge from
becoming Chief Judge after his or her 65th birthday. Erwin was to turn 65 on August 23, 1988.
Faced with the reality that Congress would not act in sufficient time to confirm a replacement so
as to allow him to retire and Erwin to be appointed Chief Judge before Erwin’s 65th birthday,
Ward advised President Reagan of his decision and elected to take senior status on August 19,
1988. As desired by Ward, Erwin was then appointed Chief Judge.
Throughout his time on the bench, Ward remained ever dedicated to Wake Forest. He
served on the Board of Visitors of Wake Forest School of Law from 1973 until his death. He
strongly supported the appointment of N. Carlton Tilley, also a “Double Deacon,” as his
replacement on the federal bench, but perhaps most important was his dedication to his law
clerks, almost all of whom were recent Wake Forest law graduates. Federal judges hire recent
law school graduates to assist them in their research and writing obligations. Generally, the job
lasts a year or two and then the law clerk moves on in his or her career and is replaced by another
recent law school graduate. Performing as he did in all matters in his life, Ward took his
responsibilities seriously, and he used this opportunity not just to ensure that his law clerks were
prepared to be the best lawyers possible, but also an opportunity to give back to the school he
loved so dearly.
All of Ward’s law clerks are alumni of Wake Forest Law School and, now, years later, in
no small part due to his influence and guidance, both while they worked with him and thereafter,
and an excellent Wake Forest legal education, they find themselves leaders in the legal
profession, leaders of their firms, judges and among of the most successful lawyers in the
country. Twenty-three alumni of Wake Forest School of Law had the privilege of and received
the benefits of serving as law clerks for Judge Ward. The attorneys trained by Ward practice in
large firms and in small firms, across North Carolina, and as distant as Miami, Kansas City, and
Wake Forest remained ever thankful for Ward’s service and dedication. Wake Forest
School of Law recognized him with the Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 1980 and 1989,
and in 1996 Wake Forest University honored him with an honorary Doctor of Law degree. In
1994, he received the Liberty Bell Award, one the highest awards of the North Carolina Bar
Association. As it came from practicing attorneys, he took great pride that his “harshest critics”
as he jokingly referred to the trial bar, would bestow such an honor on him. On July 6, 1999, as
a result of substantial behind the scenes work by a number of his clerks as well as lawyers with
whom he had worked and who had appeared before him and United States Congressman Howard
Coble, the building in which he worked from the late summer of 1976 was renamed the “Hiram
H. Ward Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.” Following Ward’s death on April 4, 2002, a
scholarship was endowed by his law clerks, family and friends to allows others to pursue their
legal education at Wake Forest. While modest at this point, with six students having benefited
from the scholarship, it is hoped that the number with grow and Ward’s legacy will live forever
with Wake Forest.8
1 Japan and Germany declared war on the United States on December 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy” and
United States responded by declaring war on Japan on December 8, 1941 and on German on December 11, 1941.
2 The B-25 was a twin engine medium bomber and one of America’s most famous airplanes of World War II. The
first test flight was on August 19, 1940 and the first production B-25 was delivered to a United States Army Air
Corp unit in February 1941.
3 A small single engine high wing aircraft used to gather intelligence, direct artillery fire and deliver and retrieve
limited cargo in and out of forward area where short field landings and take off are required.
4 At the time, Wake Forest had an accelerated program for returning war veterans. Ward spend two academic years
and two summers in the college and then three years in the law school. He obtained his undergraduate and law
degrees in five years.
5 Ward a lifelong Republic was introduced at his Confirmation Hearing before the United States Senate by North
Carolina Democratic Senator Sam Ervin.
6 North Carolina has three judicial districts and the Middle District includes a 28 county area
stretching from Virginia to South Carolina and from Durham to Wilkesboro. The main office of
the Middle District is in Greensboro, but Ward took up residency in the then-Post Office building
on 5th Street in Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem was the leading business city in North Carolina
at the time and home of the most publicly traded companies in North Carolina.
7 Clay Hemric 1972 – 1973 Hemric, Hemric & Champion, Graham, N.C.
Russell A. Eliason 1972 – 1974 retired United States Magistrate Judge
Paul Hendrick 1973 – 1975 Hendrick & Bryant, Winston -Salem
Richard Bennett 1974 – 1976 Bennett & Guthrie, Winston-Salem
Bill Martin 1975 – 1976 Ward & Smith, Raleigh, N.C.
Dan Taylor 1976 – 1978 Kilpatrick Townsend
David Lomus 1976 – 1977 deceased
Ken Kyre 1977- 1979 Pinto Coats Kyre & Bowers, PLLC Greensboro
Bill Walker 1978 – 1980 Craige Brawley Liipfert & Walker LLP Winston-Salem
Leon Porter 1979 – 1981 Wells Jenkins, Winston-Salem
Tom Ferrell 1980 – 1982 Higgs, Fletcher & Mack LP San Diego, Ca.
Steve Russell 1981- 1984 Bell Davis Pitt
Susie Gibbons 1981 – 1982 Poyner Spruill, Raleigh
Andy Carmen 1983-1985 Bell Davis Pitt
Steve Berlin 1984 -1986 Kilpatrick Townsend
Henry Fordham 1985 – 1988 Fordham Law, Apex, N.C.
Robert M. Pitkin 1986 – 1988 Levy Craig, Kansas City, Mo.
Frank Hallstrom 1988 – 1989 attorney Asheville, N.C.
John Taylor 1988 – 1990 Robinson Lawing, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Jim Hutchinson 1989 – 1990 Bahnson, Inc. Winston-Salem, N.C.
Scott P. Mebane 1990 – 1991 Mase Lara Eversole, Miami, Fla.
John M Flynn 1990-1992 Carruthers & Roth, P.A. Greensboro
Joe Bell 1991 – 1993 Batts, Batts & Bell, LLP, Rocky Mount, N.C.
Edward Pollard 1993 – 1995 McKim & Creed, Inc. Raleigh, N.C.
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8Alonzo Chisolm 2011
Dustin McIntee 2013
Samuel Garland 2014
Kelsey Meuret 2015