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HPU announces law school dean
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — A former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court with a long record of judicial accomplishment but one recent significant political controversy has been announced as the founding dean of High Point University’s new law school.

Mark D. Martin, 59, was chief justice from 2014 to 2019, when he resigned to become the dean of the law school at Regent University in Virginia Beach, which was founded by Pat Robertson. He was the youngest person ever to serve on the N.C. Supreme Court and the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Martin is a graduate of Western Carolina University and received his law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Martin and his wife, Kym, have five adult children.

HPU said in a press release that a special event to welcome Martin will be held on campus for invited guests in the fall after the semester begins.

The Charlotte Observer wrote in 2019 that Martin had a reputation as “a conciliator who took a narrow, literalist approach to the law” and cited Martin as having led a statewide reform effort of the N.C. courts that extended juvenile court protections to 16- and 17-year-olds and tried to make the courts more accessible to low-income residents.

HPU President Nido Qubein hailed Martin’s “distinguished judicial career” and demonstrated results as a law school dean.

“Chief Justice Martin has unbelievable support from a diverse array of professionals,” Qubein said. “We are fortunate to have him join the HPU family.”

During Martin’s tenure at Regent, its law school was included for the first time among U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of the best law schools and saw significant increases in such measures as its students’ scores on the standardized Law School Admission Test. In 2020, 24.6% of Regent Law graduates secured judicial clerkships (ranking 14th among U.S. law schools) and 96% were employed as measured by the National Association of Law Placement survey (ranking 20th among US law schools). The law school also achieved a 100% first-time pass rate on the Uniform Bar Exam in 2020.

Building a new law school was a key component of the $400 million academic expansion plan that Qubein described in March. He said all components of the plan were expected to be completed by the end of the 2024-25 academic year, the year HPU will celebrate the 1924 founding of what was then High Point College.

In a press release about Martin’s appointment as the new school’s founding dean, HPU listed glowing comments from a number of respected legal figures, including Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley and president of the Association of American Law Schools, who said: “His experience as a lawyer, as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and as a law school dean all make him superbly qualified to lead this new law school. With him at the helm, they are already far on the way to creating an outstanding law school.”

Peter Hans, president of the University of North Carolina System, called Martin “an innovator and creative thinker” and an extraordinary leader.

The press release included an endorsement for Martin, a Republican, by Democrat and former N.C. chief justice Burley B. Mitchell.

“He is an extraordinary judge, a natural leader and a man of integrity. He is a top performer in every way,” Mitchell said.

However, Martin generated considerable controversy as an adviser to then-President Donald Trump after the 2020 election. The New York Times reported in January 2021 that Martin helped write what eventually became a lawsuit by the state of Texas attempting to overturn Joe Biden’s electoral victories in Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — which was quickly dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court — and advocated a widely disparaged constitutional interpretation giving Vice President Mike Pence the authority to reject any state election returns he deemed fraudulent.

Martin has not publicly spoken about his post-election role.


News
A hat with a history: Museum receives Hopalong Cassidy keepsake from donor

HIGH POINT — Promotional Hopalong Cassidy hats, once treasured by countless pint-sized gunslingers who adored the popular cowboy star, are about as scarce as feathers on a horse these days.

But the High Point Museum now has one, courtesy of a former High Point woman whose family owned the hat for more than 65 years.

“My brother used to wear it with his six-shooters,” recalled Jean Sanders Shumaker, who donated the black felt hat to the museum last week. “We both used to play with it, and we wish now that we hadn’t.”

The hat, which has Cassidy’s name printed across the front and remains in pretty good condition for its age, was originally given to Shumaker’s father, Hoyt Sanders, by Cassidy himself in the mid-1950s. “Hoppy,” as his fans called him, and his horse, Topper, came to High Point to appear in the High Point Christmas Parade in 1955 and 1956, and his appearances here were sponsored by Lindale Dairy, which Sanders managed at the time.

“As the manager, my father would’ve interacted with Mr. Cassidy in preparation for the parade, so that’s when he gave my father the hat,” said Shumaker, who now lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. “I was too young, but my brother and my cousin both remember meeting him.”

After Shumaker and her brother, Don Sanders, outgrew their cowboy-playing days, the hat was stored away for safekeeping. Shumaker found it in 1989, while going through some things after her mother’s death. She remembers thinking it could be valuable, so she kept it.

After moving to Colorado in 1998, Shumaker took the hat to a western wear store to have it professionally cleaned and shaped. The vintage hat quickly drew a crowd there.

“They called every employee in the store to come look at the thing,” Shumaker said. “It’s like it was the Shroud of Turin.”

With the hat cleaned and appropriately stored in a Stetson hatbox, Shumaker held on to her hat for a couple more decades, before deciding she should donate it.

High Point Museum officials were thrilled to add the hat to their permanent collection. The hat not only belonged to a well-known celebrity, but it also represents a relationship that celebrity had with a prominent High Point business.

“Hopalong Cassidy was a promotional star of Lindale Dairy,” said Marian Inabinett, curator of collections. “He was appearing on Lindale Dairy cartons, and he was brought here for the Christmas parade by Lindale Dairy. It shows that there was a robust local business community here.”

According to Inabinett, the hat is not on display yet, but probably will be soon, perhaps in a Christmas parade exhibit or a Lindale Dairy exhibit.

Shumaker said donating the hat was a better option than hanging on to it.

“If we had kept it in our family, it would’ve ended up in a dumpster somewhere,” she said. “Our children don’t even know who Hopalong Cassidy was, or how significant he was during that era. So why not share it with the people in High Point who would remember it, or whose parents would remember it? That just seemed like the right thing to do.”

jtomlin@hpenews.com | 336-888-3579


News
2 killed in house fire
  • Updated

THOMASVILLE — Two people were found dead after a fire destroyed a house Monday night.

The names of the two people were not released Tuesday while officials notify next of kin.

A neighbor reported the fire at 107 Carolina Ave. about 9:20 p.m., Thomasville Fire and Rescue said.

Firefighters arrived to find the single-family house was fully engulfed, flames shooting through the partially collapsed roof, and the fire was hot enough to melt siding on a neighboring house, a press release said.

Firefighters were not able to get into the house until the fire was brought under control, the press release said.

The cause of the fire and where it started were being investigated jointly by the Thomasville Fire Marshal’s Office, Davidson County Fire Marshal’s Office, N.C. Office of the State Fire Marshal, and Thomasville Police Department.

In addition to the two people who were found dead, a third person lived at the house. The American Red Cross was helping him find a place to stay.


News
Man gets new trial in cousin’s killing

HIGH POINT — A High Point man serving a life sentence for a murder conviction in a 2018 shooting will get a new trial because the judge in his case should have told the jury to consider whether he killed a man to protect a woman who was being beaten, the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled.

Dominique Alexander Williams, 36, was convicted in March 2020 of second-degree murder, attaining violent habitual felon status and possession of a firearm by a felon in the death of his cousin, Michael Williams, 26.

On the night of Nov. 16, 2018, the two men went out for drinks at a Greensboro bar with Dominique Williams’ girlfriend, Tyler Reid, and Michael Williams’ girlfriend, Ciara Jackson.

Michael Williams and Jackson had what was described in court as a volatile relationship that included physical violence against Jackson, and Michael Williams once pulled a gun on Dominique Williams for intervening to protect Jackson, the appeals court wrote in its opinion issued Tuesday.

While the four were in Jackson’s car riding back to High Point, Michael Williams and Jackson, who was driving, got into an argument about another woman Williams had been seeing. Williams told Jackson he would kill her, hit her in the head with a beer bottle and began punching her.

Jackson pulled over, the argument moved outside the car, and Dominique Williams intervened and “somewhat” calmed his cousin, the appeals court wrote.

After they got back in the car and Jackson resumed driving, Michael Williams grabbed her hair and hit her in the face. Jackson pulled over again, and she and Michael Williams got out of the car and fought.

Dominique Williams came around the car and shot at least two times, hitting his cousin in the chest twice.

At trial in February 2020, Williams’ attorney asked Judge Michael Duncan to instruct the jury that Williams could be found not guilty of murder if the jurors found that he was trying to protect Jackson when he shot his cousin. Duncan did not give the instruction because Williams, a previously convicted felon, illegally had possession of a gun at the time of the shooting.

But the Court of Appeals said Duncan should have given the instruction, so it vacated Williams’ conviction and sent the case back to Guilford Superior Court for a new trial.


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