David L. Ward is a lawyer by profession and a community giver by nature. He specializes in business law including antitrust, banking, labor, personnel, litigation, trusts and estates.
The New Bern native received his bachelor’s in accounting from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1957 and his law degree from Duke University in 1962. He returned to his hometown to practice law like his grandfather and father, a popular former state senator.
At the time, David was the youngest lawyer in town. “New Bern was hurting in 1962 and my parents wanted me to come back. A lot of people here helped me. I wanted to see the community grow and be better and, if somebody didn’t step up, it wouldn’t have happened.”
His firm, Ward and Smith, P.A., grew from a small office of two attorneys to five offices with a total of 97 attorneys throughout the state, including a location in Raleigh.
“We don’t sit in the office,” David says of his partners and associates. “We encourage all of our lawyers, young and old, to go out in the community and serve them for free. This is part of our creed and mission to provide some free legal services and good will.”
Joe Austin, a partner of Ward and Smith, recalls being the 13th lawyer hired by David Ward. “It was implicit in our practice and our lives, we were supposed to contribute to the city, our church and charitable organizations…He led by example.”
“David does not try to get the spotlight toward him,” Mr. Austin says. “He works behind the scenes to get things done. You feel his presence. He keeps your eye on the moral thing to do. He is a driving force.”
In 2012, the Craven Community College Foundation honored David with its Community Fabric Awards for leadership. David was recognized for his impact in meeting the needs of his community. He has served as the college’s lead attorney since it was founded in 1965.
He was instrumental in making Tryon Palace an historical site in New Bern and has been a member of the Tryon Palace Commission and the Tryon Palace Council of Friends. He also was a founding member of the Craven County Committee of 100.
Coming from a family that honored civic duty, David quickly accepted Research Triangle Park founder Archie Davis’ invitation to serve on the Research Triangle Foundation Board. “I’ve always had a strong feeling about giving back.”
David recalls that Mr. Davis, also a Wachovia bank executive, and his father were political friends. David got to know Mr. Davis when they served on the Board of the Tar Heel One Hundred now the Board of Visitors at UNC-CH.
David joined the board in 1992 and became the board director emeritus in December 2012. “When the state prospers, New Bern prospers. I think there was a desire to have people from all over the state to help and provide leadership.”
The Park needs to be modernized, David explains. “There are several initiatives underway that will do just that. We need to find out what the demands are for people who work there now and the people who want to work there in the future.
“The Park was developed based on a brand new idea that was forward-thinking. But after 50 some years, the world has changed. The Park needs to change to accommodate the world. That means a Park with retail stores, entertainment venues, restaurants, apartments, condominiums, a place where people can live and prosper in a societal way that they can’t do right now.”