'One of the greatest privileges I have had'

The Hon. James G. Exum Jr., who steps away from teaching this spring after serving Elon Law as Distinguished Professor of the Judicial Process, was recognized during a May 10 awards luncheon that celebrated Elon University educators, mentors and retiring professors.

When Jim Exum retires from the classroom this spring, it will be for his “third retirement,” and the one he calls the “most poignant.”

Exum’s first retirement was in 1994, when he concluded his tenure as chief justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court. The second was a few years later, from the prestigious firm of Smith Moore Leatherwood.

After serving as a founding member of the Elon University School of Law Board of Advisors, the Hon. James G. Exum Jr. was among the first faculty to teach Elon Law students upon the school’s open in 2006, drawing from his wealth of knowledge gleaned from the state’s highest court and the weighty cases in which he’s argued as an attorney.

“Of all the things I’ve done, I think in many ways this experience I have had as a teacher, as a member of this faculty of this great university, to have been given the opportunity to help young people learn the things they need to know to do the things they want to do and to be the person that they want to be — to have that opportunity is probably one of the greatest privileges I have had,” Exum said during a May 10 luncheon on Elon University’s main campus. “I will always cherish it.”

The annual Faculty / Staff Awards Luncheon in Elon’s Alumni Gym celebrated top educators and administrators who have dedicated their careers to teaching, scholarship, service and mentoring. It also recognizes faculty members whose retirements take effect at the end of the spring.

Exum served on the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1975-1994, and was chief justice from 1986-1994. In 1996 he returned to the practice of law at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP where he led the appellate practice group, supervising and assisting lawyers with appeals in state and federal courts. During his service with the Supreme Court, Exum wrote 402 opinions for the court and 208 concurring or dissenting opinions. As a lawyer, he has helped brief and argued more than 40 appeals in state and federal appellate courts.

Exum is a Fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. He has served in the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association as Chairperson of the ABA Criminal Justice Standards Committee, and as State Chair of the ABA Foundation. He has been active in the North Carolina Bar Association, serving in the 1980s as co-chair of its Commission on Alternate Dispute Resolution and most recently as co-chair of its Committee on Judicial Independence. He served as Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence at Elon Law from 2006 to 2012.

Exum, who early in his career also served in the North Carolina General Assembly, is the recipient of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Judge John J. Parker Award for conspicuous service to the cause of jurisprudence; the North Carolina ACLU’s Frank Porter Graham Civil Liberties Award and the American Judicature Society’s Herbert Harley Award for contributing to the improvement of the administration of justice in North Carolina.

Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman introduced Exum at the luncheon. In his remarks, Bierman passed along sentiments shared by Mark Martin, the current chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, for the impact Exum made on the legal profession’s understanding of sections of the state constitution that are largely overlooked.

Bierman then thanked Exum for all he has done for Elon Law as a teacher, an advisor, and a trusted colleague willing to share his wisdom. “What we will miss most is the friendship and the help and the support he has given us at the law school,” Bierman said.