Some local developments

Carl Fox sworn in, Orange County gets new DA

Judge, district attorney sworn in

Mar 23, 2005 : 7:14 pm ET

HILLSBOROUGH — The line of succession that began in 1978 when Wade Barber met a young bartender named Carl Fox took another step forward Wednesday afternoon as Barber swore in Fox as a Superior Court judge and Fox, in turn, swore in his assistant, Jim Woodall, as district attorney.

The large courtroom in the Orange County Courthouse overflowed with friends, family, law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys and county and state leaders as Fox and Woodall officially began their new posts.

Gov. Mike Easley last week appointed Fox as the second Superior Court judge in Orange and Chatham counties, and then he appointed Woodall as DA for the two counties, to fill Fox’s vacant spot.

Orange-Chatham Superior Court Judge Barber began the ceremony with a speech about Fox, whom he met when Barber himself was the Orange-Chatham DA. “I went to this function, and there was this very engaging bartender there, and I went to talk to him and found out he was a third-year law student,” Barber recalled.

The judge joked that Fox was so highly respected at UNC he was a professor even while he was still a student. “He taught the first, and I think the last, class of mixology, otherwise known as bartending,” Barber said to the laughs of the people in the courtroom.

Later, Barber hired Fox as an assistant district attorney, and when Barber left the office six years later, the governor appointed Fox, with Barber’s blessing, as the new DA.

Barber spoke of Fox’s dedication to the community in his public and personal life. Fox’s class for teenagers is the most well attended Sunday school class at his church, he pointed out. Barber also mentioned that Fox has served on the board of directors of various organizations, such as Volunteers for Youth and Habitat for Humanity.

After his speech brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation for Fox, Barber swore his protégé in as the new Superior Court judge as Fox’s wife, Valerie Stafford-Fox, held the Bible for him.

Fox immediately donned the black robe of a judge, then thanked all the people who had helped him over the years.

“I didn’t truly grow up dying to be a judge,” Fox said. “I remember watching ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ and seeing a judge. You almost think of judges as being older, withdrawn sorts of people. Now I’m one of those older, withdrawn sorts of people.”

Fox referred to a recent editorial that said some people chided him for never obtaining the death penalty against anyone while he served as district attorney. Fox said he wasn’t bothered by that criticism.

“I’m proud that the counties where I am district attorney have chosen life over death,” he said, as many people applauded loudly.

Fox recalled that when he received his appointment as DA in 1984, there were only two other black district attorneys in the nation. He noted that now he is the first black Superior Court judge for Orange and Chatham counties.

“I want to say to any young person who sits in this audience or reads this in the paper, you can do anything you want to do if you just work hard and get a good education,” he said.

Then Fox turned his attention to his successor, Jim Woodall, who has served as his assistant district attorney for 15 years. He said he met Woodall at the UNC Hospitals Emergency Room, where Woodall was working along with one of Fox’s friends.

Woodall has tried many serious cases and was manager of the Orange County office, Fox said. “He’s got the experience that I didn’t get when I was assistant district attorney,” Fox said. “Trying cases, that’s the easy part. Managing people is the difficult part.”

After Fox applied to be Superior Court judge, he spoke to Woodall about his interest in becoming district attorney, Fox said.

“Jimmy, of course, said, ‘Well Carl. I didn’t ever say I was interested as long as you were DA, but I was sort of wondering, when are you going to move on?’ ” Fox said.

Then, in his first act as a Superior Court judge, Fox swore Woodall in as the new district attorney for the two counties as Woodall’s wife, Linda, and his daughter, Handley, stood by his side.

“I am going to work as hard as I can at this job and make everyone in our district proud of our office and have confidence in our office, Woodall said.


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