George Robinson Ragsdale
George Robinson Ragsdale, 84, died peacefully at home on August 12, 2020. The eldest son of Susan Jolly and George Young Ragsdale, George was born on March 26, 1936. He graduated with honors in 1954 from Georgetown Preparatory School, the nation's oldest boy's school, and entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he graduated in 1958. An active student leader, he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, the Order of the Golden Fleece, The Order of the Grail and was Chairman of the Men's Honor Council. He was elected President of the Senior Class and Permanent President of the Class of 1958.
He graduated from UNC Law School in 1961 and was the recipient of the prestigious Richardson Fellowship. He spent a year in Washington, DC as Assistant Chief Counsel of the United States Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr., Chairman. In Washington, he met Adora "Dody" Prevost, and the couple married in 1962. Subsequently, he entered the private practice of law in Raleigh with James H. Pou Bailey, who became his lifelong friend and mentor. Upon the election of Governor Dan K. Moore, George was named Legal Counsel to the Governor. In 1968, Governor Moore appointed him to the Bench as a Special Judge of the Superior Court of North Carolina, then one of the youngest such Judges in the State's history.
In 1972, George and his great friend and comrade, Frank Liggett, founded the law firm of Ragsdale Liggett, PLLC. In 1987, they merged their firm with the New York-based international law firm later known as Dewey & LeBoeuf. Both were partners in the firm.
During his long legal career, George served on the Board of Directors of a number of publicly traded U.S. and international companies and traveled to many parts of the world engaging in numerous litigations and corporate acquisitions, mergers and other transactions. He appeared in the courts of a number of foreign jurisdictions and litigated commercial disputes both in the United States and abroad.
In the summer of 1981, the concrete skywalks in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City collapsed, killing more than 100 guests and injuring 200 more in what has been described as the United States' worst structural engineering disaster in history. George was tapped to organize and lead the legal defense of the staggering liability claims arising from the tragedy.
In 1979, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was re-elected to a second term four years later. He served as Chairman of the Board from 1984 to 1985. He was especially proud of this opportunity because his father and his father's college roommate wrote the Carolina Fight Song, which has been played at virtually every major UNC athletic contest for nearly 100 years.
In 1992, he successfully argued Darden v. Nationwide in the United States Supreme Court, obtaining a reversal of three previous lower Federal Court rulings, resulting in a unanimous decision in favor of his client.
He was a Diplomate of the National College of State Trial Judges and was a member of the American Bar Association, the North Carolina Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and was honored as one of the "Best Lawyers in America," by the Bar Register of Pre-Eminent Lawyers. In 2009, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America. In 2012, he was recognized by the N.C. State Bar for fifty years of service to the legal profession of North Carolina.
Among his proudest achievements was his role and service as a Founding Member and First Vestry Clerk of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Raleigh, NC.
George was a longtime member of the Carolina Country Club, Raleigh, NC; Biltmore Forest Country Club, Asheville, NC; the Sphinx Club of Raleigh, the Terpsichorean Club, the Nine O'Clock Cotillion Club, and the Ole Raleigh Boys Club.
He fished the trout streams of North Carolina and the rivers of many Western States. He caught many trophy trout but he released them all to the waters from whence they came.
George was a man of honor. He was a devoted husband, a loving father and grandfather, and a great friend and ally. He was, through and through, a gentleman.
George was preceded in death eight weeks ago by his life's great love of 58 years, Adora Prevost Ragsdale. He was also preceded by his sister, Janie Ragsdale Young, and his eldest son, John Robinson Ragsdale.
He is survived by his two children, George Young Ragsdale II of Charlottesville, VA and Adora Ragsdale Koonce (Burke) of Raleigh, NC; by his brother, Frank Jolly Ragsdale (Peg); by three grandchildren, Marvin Burke Koonce IV, Adora Prevost Koonce and Margaret Coate Ragsdale; and by many beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.
A graveside service of resurrection and celebration of his life and memory will be held at Historic Oakwood Cemetery on August 17, 2020 at 10:30 am, The Reverend Dr. John W. Yates III officiating. Guests are invited to practice social distancing and are welcome to bring chairs if desired.
In lieu of flowers, memorials if desired, may be made to the Holy Trinity Anglican Church Building Fund, 549 N. Blount Street, Raleigh, NC 27604.
The family would like to extend its deepest gratitude to Dr. Todd Helton and to the nurses at Bayada Home Health.
Arrangements by Brown-Wynne, Saint Mary's St., Raleigh.
Published in The News and Observer on Aug. 16, 2020.