Throughout courtrooms and judges’ chambers in eastern North Carolina, accolades are pouring forth as the legal community mourns the loss of a respected jurist and Senior Resident Superior Court Judge.
W. Douglas Parsons died suddenly Saturday evening while vacationing with friends in Myrtle Beach. Parsons was 67.
Parsons was born in Sampson County and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for undergraduate studies graduating in 1972 then later enrolling in Wake Forest University School of Law where he graduated in 1975. He worked as an assistant district attorney and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina as well as in private practice before becoming appointed to the N.C. Superior Court in June 2012. Parsons was elected to the bench in an uncontested race in Nov. 2012.
College and law school classmate and current Onslow County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Charles Henry had fond memories from his near-50-year friendship with Parsons.
“In my opinion, there is no other person more qualified to be a judge than Judge Parsons. His experience, legal ability, professionalism just set him off from any other possible candidates,” Henry said Monday morning from his chambers inside the Onslow County Superior Courthouse.
“He was not only a colleague but a personal friend and I can’t estimate the loss that he will be to his family, legal profession and the judiciary,” Henry said.
Parsons’ gregarious personality ingratiated himself with people he encountered on a daily basis and throughout his life regardless of their perceived stature in life. From elected officials in Raleigh and statehouses throughout the United States from his legal work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and later as a practicing defense attorney in Smithfield trying cases in federal court, Parsons gained respect and admiration from partners and courtroom adversaries. Parsons was known to be a mentor to young attorneys fresh out of law school and eager to practice law.
Superior Court Judge Ebern Watson lll remembers times when Parsons would come to Sampson area high schools to watch a football or basketball game. Watson was a four-sport lettermen—football, baseball, basketball and golf—and remembers Watson coming out to Friday Night Lights and watching Harrells Christian Academy where Watson led the Crusaders over center as its quarterback.
"He had an uncanny ability to meet people and make them feel like he knew them,” Watson said he remembers Parsons as a judge who “made young lawyers feel they were welcome,” Watson said Monday morning in the judges’ chambers he shared with Parsons and that still had Parsons’ pouches of Trail Mix and Fruit and Nuts bags sitting on the room’s conference table.
“He was a lawyer’s lawyer. He had a reputation with clients, other judges and Senators. That was a gift he had. He knew everybody,” Watson said.
In August 2017, Parsons presided over a case in Onslow County Superior Court involving a Midway park homicide which occurred in 1979. The defendant, Roger Pollard pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced by Parsons to serve 25 to 30 years. Defending Pollard was Jacksonville attorney Walter Paramore.
Paramore knew Parsons through work in the district attorney’s office and in the courtroom for decades and found Parsons’ reputation second to none. “He was the most unique man to serve on the bench. He as ab exceptional judge and a great individual,” Paramore said.
Parson served as the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge in three of the four counties that comprise the 4th Prosecutorial District: Jones, Duplin and Sampson. Fourth Prosecutorial District Attorney Ernie Lee, like others who knew and respected Parsons admitted shock and sadness when word spread of Parsons’ death.
“I was very shocked of the untimely passing of Judge Parsons who I knew for more than 30 years. He was an outstanding Superior Court Judge,” Lee said. Lee said Parsons was very accommodating in shuffle the court calendar around to satisfy the wishes of the victim’s families and Lee’s office during trying trials. Pollards case came to mind to Lee.
“He was always well prepared for a case and was well-versed in the law. He had a wealth of experience about criminal law,” Lee said.
Longtime friend and fellow Sampson resident District Court Judge William Sutton who spent time with Parsons’ family one day after his death summed up his feelings during court recess Monday. “He was a dear friend.”
Daily News Reporter Mike McHugh ca n be reached at 910-219-8455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a previous version of this story.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Parsons died Sept. 23 while vacationing in Myrtle Beach.
Parsons was the senior resident superior court judge for Sampson, Duplin and Jones.
He was appointed to the post by then Gov. Bev Perdue in June 2012.
Fourth Prosecutorial District Attorney Ernie Lee was shocked and saddened when he learned of Parsons' passing.
"I was shocked of the untimely passing of Judge Parsons. I knew him for more than 30 years and he was an outstanding superior court judge," Lee said Monday morning from his Jacksonville office.
Parsons presided on many cases in Onslow County and most recently was the presiding jurist who handled the plea sentencing in a 1979 cold case involving defendant Pollard. The cause of death is not yet known.