Harold J. Bender 70 of St. James Plantation, Southport, NC, passed away suddenly on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.

Known affectionately as "Head" to his friends and family, Mr. Bender was born September 16, 1942 in Winston - Salem, the son of the late Dr. John R. and Louise Zimmerman Bender. He earned his law degree from UNC Chapel Hill in 1969. After beginning his career in Statesville, Mr. Bender worked several years at the Department of Justice, ultimately serving as the United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Following his tenure as a federal prosecutor, Mr. Bender began a long and distinguished career as a Board Certified criminal defense attorney in Charlotte. He practiced extensively, in the federal courts of the United States, most notably in the Western District of North Carolina, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. Head's formal accomplishments included membership in the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and recognition as a Master in the Bobbitt Inn of Court. He was a mentor to a generation of younger lawyers who learned how to practice law by following his example. He was a passionate advocate for his clients and took seriously his vow to defend even those accused of terrible crimes, saying simply "in order for the system to work for the best of us, its got to work for the worst of us. The system requires that lawyers sometimes take on unpopular causes and do the absolute best we can."

Beyond his law practice, Harold worked for many years on the weekends, and took great pride and pleasure, as a football referee in the Southern Conference, earning that league's Silver Whistle Award, given to its best referee.

Head retired to Southport in 2010, where he maintained a small law practice and continued to enjoy mentoring young Brunswick County lawyers. He was a volunteer and coach with The First Tee of Brunswick County and an active member of the Men's Golf Association at St. James.

Surviving are his loving wife Nita Robertson of the home; a daughter Currin Bender of Syracuse, New York; two step sons Ford Robertson and wife Ashley of Raleigh, and Bradley Robertson and wife Niki of Bristol, Tennessee; two brothers Bob Bender and wife Ruth of High Point, and Ralph Bender and wife Sherrie of Houston, Texas; and five grandchildren whom he adored and who loved him dearly, Margaret Robertson, Abigail Robertson, Ella Robertson, Grady Robertson, and Catherine Robertson.

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 pm on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Southport with Reverend Barry Kubler officiating. The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00 pm Wednesday evening at Peacock - Newnam & White Funeral Service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The First Tee of Brunswick County,

445 Tarkln Court, Shallotte, North Carolina 28470, or to the .

You may make online memorials at www.peacocknewnamwhite.com.

Peacock - Newnam & White Funeral and Cremation Service, Southport.

Online condolences at StarNewsOnline.com

Published in the Wilmington Star-News from Mar. 26 to Mar. 27, 2013