William Johnson Waggoner (1928 - 2019)

Obituary
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William Johnson Waggoner, Bill, 'Bebo', age 90, died peacefully in what he called his new home, The Pines at Davidson, February 14th, 2019. He was born in Salisbury, NC on October 13, 1928 to James and Julia May Waggoner.

As he looked back over the past 50 years and more, it is hard to realize that he had been so blessed. As a second generation lawyer who did not practice with his father, he had just enough independence to wish to do it on my own rather than being the " & Son" of a law firm. He attended Catawba College during 1945 and 1946 and then at age 17 joined the Army and served during 1946 and 1947 in the Occupation Forces in Japan. On his return, he attended Catawba College for a short while and then had six glorious years, as he calls it, at UNC and UNC Law School, the last year being his first year of marriage to the love of his life, Martha Anne Garwood of Salisbury, NC. They were married 54 years until her death.

Upon graduation in 1954, they came to Charlotte and he was associated with the greatest mentor one could have, a very fine lawyer by the name of Maurice Weinstein. He owed him much more than he could acknowledge to Maurice, particularly his insistence on being prepared on the facts and the law. For two years, 1956 and 1958, he served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina in the Charlotte office and served under that great attorney and jurist, James M. Bailey Jr. Again, he was blessed with a very fine mentor.

On returning to private practice with Weinstein, Waggoner & Sturgess of Charlotte, he was involved in a very general practice, trying criminal, domestic, bankruptcy, patent, anti-trust, and also handling general business matters, sales, acquisitions, and taxes. There was no specialization in small firms at that time. He did learn that law practice was founded on principles of fairness and justice, except in heavily lobbied laws such as taxation, insurance, and similarly vested interests. During this period, he was quite active in Republican politics at all levels, except running for office. He was employed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education in 1969 to assist in the defense of the desegregation case, now known as the "Busing Case" in Charlotte, Swann v. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education.

On his 42nd birthday, he found himself in the United States Supreme Court for oral argument in the Swann case. He was certainly nervous. Then about a half hour before the case was called, it suddenly struck him that he knew as much or more about the case as anyone in the courtroom, the justices included. He had spent long days for a year and a half, sometimes with related matters in the district court, court of appeal, and moving toward the Supreme Court. His knowledge of the case did not prevent the justices from disrupting his planned argument and deciding for the other side.

He was a devout Christian and a charter member of Christ Lutheran Church. He served the church in many capacities, such as teaching Sunday school, serving on the Council, legal advisor and was always willing to answer the call to serve when there was a need. His love for others and especially his family was evident in most aspects of his life. He enjoyed being with family, Boy Scouting, fishing, golf, racquetball, and in the earlier days, hunting. He reminisced that best of all, his three children recall their fondest childhood memories getting up at 5:00 a.m., eating breakfast at the Varsity or the Dobbs House near South Boulevard in preparation for a fishing trip, annual beach vacations with extended family, and getting on the water at Lake Wylie in time to see the beautiful purple haze that greets the morning. He then recalled catching, cleaning, and eating the fish, and finishing the day with skiing. He had pleasant memories of the many trips to swamps on the Little Pee Dee River, even including a father daughter trip. Through his love of fishing, he fished extensively in Canada, Venezuela, Costa Rica, the Outer Banks and rivers and lakes of the Mid-Atlantic.

He was especially thankful of Anne for her love and for supporting all his endeavors. He would also thank his former partners at Waggoner, Hasty, Kratt & McDonnell; Waggoner, Hamrick, Hasty, Monteith & Kratt; and his friends at Guthrie, Davis, Henderson & Staton where near the end of his law career he served as "of counsel." It has been indeed a very good life.

Thankfully, all his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren live nearby so we could all can visit with one another often. He would often say "These are the good ol' days" at the conclusion of a family gathering. Bill always knew he was an Officer of The Court and we kidded him as he had a nick name "Honest Abe" when he would circle back and ensure people were treated honestly and fairly. Many of his clients owned Greek restaurants in the 1970's and 1980's and we would patronize them as a family from time to time and when the owner offered to take care of the check he would always insist on paying his own way, honestly and fairly.

He is survived by his son, W J Waggoner Jr. (Vickie) of Huntersville; daughter, Ellen W Lankford (Bruce) of Fort Mill, S.C.; and son, David G Waggoner (Mary Beth) of Denver N.C. There are seven grandchildren: Lauren Kowsky, William J Waggoner III, Katie Beacus, Paige Lankford, and Christine Lankford, David G Waggoner Jr. and Jack Waggoner; and three great grandchildren, Emerson and Landon Kowsky, and Kinsley Beacus.

His wife, Anne, preceded him and passed in 2010.

A service to celebrate his life will be held on Wednesday, Feb 20th, 11:00 AM at Christ Lutheran Church, 4519 Providence Rd in Charlotte NC.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to Christ Lutheran Church. Condolences may be offered online at harryandbryantfuneralhome.com.

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Harry & Bryant Funeral Home
500 Providence Road
Charlotte, NC 28207
(704) 332-7133
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Published in Charlotte Observer on Feb. 17, 2019
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