The Honorable J. Frank Huskins ’32 (1911-1995) was devoted to Carolina Law and to his native North Carolina mountains. Thanks to a generous bequest by his widow, Ruth H. Huskins, his love of both was permanently memorialized with the creation of the Justice J. Frank Huskins Scholarship Fund.
Mrs. Huskins passed away in early 2010, leaving more than $1 million to UNC School of Law to establish the scholarship fund, which is expected to provide at least $50,000 annually in scholarship support.
“Mrs. Huskins’ decision and planning will assist many future students in realizing their dreams of becoming Carolina lawyers,” Jack Boger said in an April speech announcing the gift.
With a nod to the mountain roots she shared with her husband, Mrs. Huskins specified a preference for the scholarships to be awarded to students from Yancey, Caldwell and Mitchell counties, if possible.
Justice Huskins graduated from Carolina Law in 1932 and returned to his hometown of Burnsville, N.C., to practice. He served as mayor of Burnsville from 1939 to 1942 and then served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He represented Yancey County in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1947 and 1949. He then served as chair of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, a position he held for six years.
Huskins was a resident Superior Court judge in the 24th Judicial District, which included Yancey County, from 1955 to 1965. Huskins served as North Carolina’s first director of the Administrative Office of the Courts before being appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1968. He was elected twice to full terms before retiring from the Court in 1982. After retiring, Huskins practiced as counsel with the Raleigh, N.C., firm of Ransdell, Ransdell and Cline.
When Huskins died in 1995, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell ’69 said of him, “He was what I always thought the epitome of a judge should be: he listened a lot more than he spoke.”
M. Keith Kapp ’79, vice chairman at Williams Mullen in Raleigh and a member of the William Horn Battle Society, clerked for Huskins. Kapp served as the executor of Ruth Huskins’ estate.
“Mrs. Huskins and her husband loved Carolina,” Kapp says. “Justice and Mrs. Huskins attributed their successes primarily to two things – hard work and his Carolina connections.”
All of Huskins’ law clerks were Carolina Law graduates. They speak of him fondly.
“I remember Justice Huskins as vividly as if we had just parted company,” says Moses Luski ’78, now partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, in Charlotte. “I especially remember his unique traits of friendliness, humility, and, most of all, his wisdom and reserve. He taught me that conservatism was a virtue, and he, in turn, was wise enough to know that a young law clerk’s fresh take on the law was essential to the development of the law.”
North Carolina State House Minority Leader Joe Hackney ’70 says one of his memories of Huskins during the time he clerked for him was his passion for UNC basketball.
“He lived and died by the basketball fortunes of Dean Smith,” Hackney says. More seriously, he adds, “Justice Huskins was a meticulous, fact-based student of the law. We made a good team. He regarded all his clerks as too liberal, and he loved to poke fun at any arguments on the left side. But he would listen and consider, and he liked to have his legal arguments challenged by the young folks who worked for him."
Kapp says it is important to remember that, as much as Huskins loved his alma mater, it was his wife, Ruth, who made the bequest to endow the scholarship in her late husband’s name. The couple had a close relationship, according to Kapp, and Ruth Huskins’ bequest illustrates her devotion to her husband as much as it does his devotion to Carolina Law.
“We are grateful that Mrs. Huskins chose to remember her husband in this meaningful way,” Boger says. “We are honored to have the Justice J. Frank Huskins Scholarship at Carolina Law.”
This story is an excerpt from the Fall-Winter 2011 issue of Carolina Law.
-November 28, 2011