The professional life of Otis Mr. “Bud” Oliver, a resident of Mount Airy, was somewhat unusual due to the fact that it encompassed both the judicial and legislative spheres – as a judge and in municipal government – but he was recalled on Tuesday as excelling in both.
“He was just a good man,” former Mount Airy mayor David Rowe said of Oliver, agreeing that quality is important regardless of the field of work.
“When I think of Judge Oliver, I just think he’s a gentleman,” said Jody Mitchell, a Dobson attorney who is president of the Surry County Bar Association.
“I can’t think of a better word for Judge Oliver than gentleman,” Mitchell said of the retired civil servant, who died at his home on Monday. Olivier was 83 years old.
“Judge Bud Oliver was one of the best court officials I have ever known,” said David Beal, a former Surry County Superior Court clerk who also served as the chief police officer and municipal commissioner at Mount Airy.
Oliver is remembered by many for his dedicated service to both criminal justice and city government after graduating from the University of North Carolina Law School at Chapel Hill.
“I would love to go back even further than that, when I was a real young man,” Rowe said, mentioning that his grandparents lived on Grace Street, next to Oliver.
“And he was a football hero,” Rowe recalls of Oliver, who played for legendary Bears head coach Wallace Shelton before graduating from Mount Airy High School in 1956. “And I idolized him, and he was very nice to me. “
After obtaining his law degree, Oliver returned to his hometown to work as a lawyer for the next 27 years.
During this time he also served on the Mount Airy Council of Commissioners for nearly 15 years, spanning two different periods, from December 1969 to December 1973 and from December 1979 to November 1990, when Oliver resigned to become a judge of the District Court.
During his tenure on the board, Oliver built a reputation for being extremely analytical and thoughtful in dealing with local issues.
“I knew him when he was the lawyer for the radio station,” said another former Mount Airy mayor, Deborah Cochran, who also had a long career on air locally with WSYD. Cochran recalled that Oliver had an office on Franklin Street.
“He was one of the nicest, sweetest, smartest men I have ever met,” observed Cochran, who said the death of the retired judge was “a huge loss” to the community.
“I worked with him as an agent for the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) when he practiced law,” said Beal, an association that has continued in the legal arena. “When he became a district court judge, he was fair, compassionate and kind to everyone.”
Oliver held this position until 1994, when he was appointed Chief Justice of the District Court for the Local Judicial District which includes Surry County.
He retired in January 2007, after 12 years of service, when he chose not to stand for re-election. During his tenure as Chief District Court Judge, Oliver served on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina District Court Judges Association and received the Centennial Award for Professionalism and Service from the North Carolina Bar Association.
“Hundred Dollar Oliver”
Despite the high position he held in making decisions affecting the lives of those who entered his courtroom, Oliver never let it go to his head with an attitude of “I’m the judge, get out.” out of my way, ”according to Beal.
“Judge Oliver always greeted you casually when he first saw you,” recalls the former court clerk. “I called him ‘Your Grace’ and he referred to me with whatever came to mind.”
Other members of the local legal community had another nickname for Judge Oliver, said Mitchell, the president of the local Bar Association. It was “One Hundred Dollar Oliver,” the sum of the fine he often imposed for trafficking and other affairs over which he presided.
“That’s what some of us called it,” Mitchell said.
“I have had the pleasure of appearing in ‘Judge Bud’ court for many years,” said city attorney Hugh Campbell on Tuesday.
“As a judge he has always been firm but fair. In person, he was a quintessential Southern gentleman – warm, charming, quick-witted, honorable, ”added Campbell. “He had a twinkle in his eyes to let you know he was engaged.”
“He had a happy side and a serious side and that’s what I’ll remember him,” Beal said of Oliver, but that was all business when the gavel rang to begin the court hearings. .
“He ran a pretty strict tribunal,” agreed Mitchell.
“Man of character”
Still, the judge seemed to have a way of looking beyond the simple facts of a criminal case to fully assess the circumstances surrounding a person charged with an offense.
“Bud has always been from a judicial standpoint, I felt very compassionate in the cases he tried,” said Rowe, who also knew Oliver in another part of his life.
“I knew him pretty well at church,” said the former mayor of their long association with First Baptist of Mount Airy.
This is where another local resident spent a lot of time with Oliver, a longtime member of this church, in addition to much earlier.
“I’ve known him my whole life – we were in high school together,” said Eleanor Brown, wife of former city councilor Dean Brown. “We were also in Sunday school together.”
“Wonderful” was the word Mrs. Brown used to best describe Bud Oliver: “He was a wonderful judge and a wonderful Christian. “
“He was a very nice man and he loved his family, his community and he loved the bar,” Mitchell said.
Even after his retirement, Oliver continued to attend Surry County Bar Association meetings, which Mitchell says impressed him as Oliver could easily have chosen to spend his golden years in another way.
“It was always a joy and a privilege to speak to him and he will be absolutely missed.”
Oliver recently had health problems. “We really thought he would get better,” Ms. Brown said.
Beal expressed his family’s condolences to Oliver’s and said: “I will miss him very much.”
“I think he was extremely brilliant,” Cochran said, summing up the feelings of many regarding Bud Oliver.
“He was a man of character – a great character.”
“Bud will be rightly remembered for the many contributions he made in his public life, but he managed to keep the balance as a devoted husband, father and friend,” said Campbell, the town’s lawyer.
“And that way, he will be missed the most.”