United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina
In Memory of Thomas J. Ashcraft
RESOLUTION AND MEMORIAL
D. Whitney, Chief Judge Superior Court Judge
the rare opportunity to be in a real courthouse with real
lawyers. Considering that I'm not a real lawyer but a
real estate lawyer, I'm in pretty high cotton. This
session is being presided over by Judge Whitney, who
worked with me as a law clerk. He has come a long way.
(Judge, I won't tell any stories about your behavior at
some of our office parties.) If any of your criminal defense
lawyers want some stories you can use them to get lower
sentences for your clients.
have the distinct and rare honor to present a memorial for my
dear friend, Tom Ashcraft. Nicki and Bob, thank you for
allowing me this privilege.
an impeccable academic and legal resume, but that tells you
little about Tom as a person. He was one of the most humble
and unassuming persons I have ever known.
Tom's resume. Any lawyer would be proud to have a career
such as his. As Dizzy Dean said, "It ain't
braggin' if you can do it." Yet Tom never said,
"I worked for one of the most influential senators in
the US, and that makes me a great guy." He even omitted
from his obituary that he was on the Law Review at Wake
on the fact that Tom was the U.S. Attorney for this district.
Look around us today. Look at all the pomp, circumstance and
power around us today. Tom was charged with upholding and
enforcing the laws of the U.S. for this district. What an
honor and great responsibility, yet Tom never once mentioned
to me or anyone else that I know that he was proud of this
also was greatly responsible for the appointment of three
federal judges for our district. Yet Tom never talked about
that. Think about that impact.
is a poem called "The True Gentleman." One phrase
in it states that a fine gentleman must have an "acute
sense of Propriety." Tom had that in spades.
learned about Tom's acute sense of propriety in one very
humorous way. Once Tom and I went to a political convention
at the behest of Joe Beard, who instructed us to vote for a
particular person we knew nothing about. We agreed. We went
to the meeting and during the course of it, we were accosted
by a political foe because we were opposing him. He was
standing over and yelling at Tom! Tom sat there quietly. I
was next to Tom, and this guy made me very angry. I told him
that if he didn't leave Tom alone, I would kick his a.
The guy ultimately left with Tom being as polite as ever.
After he left, Tom quietly turned to me as said
matter-of-factly, "Ralph, you couldn't have kicked
that guy's a. He was a state wrestling champion."
a very humble man, but I would be remiss if I didn't
mention his love of an intellectual tussle. As I look around
this room, I see many of you who have been victims of
Tom's fuselage of e-mails about various subjects. The
funniest story about this aspect of Tom's life came about
in a conversation between Bob Hull and David Hamilton at the
MPCC driving range. David asked Bob how he enjoyed being
president of the club. Bob said it was great except for one
thing. He said he had a file two inches thick with
correspondence from Tom Ashcraft. David replied that as
president of the Mecklenburg Board of Law, he had on just as
the priest at his funeral said, always tried to speak Truth
to Power. Even if you didn't have any power! He was
always passionately engaged in finding the truth.
are two types of people in this world: foxes and hedgehogs.
Foxes scamper about, knowing lots of little things. Hedgehogs
stay resolutely quiet, knowing one big thing. Even though Tom
knew a lot about many things, he was a hedgehog, knowing that
to find truth one had to find God.
spent much of his life trying to help people know God as he
saw Him. What made Tom so significant a person was how
important he viewed this mission. Because you knew he felt it
was important, and you took it to be important too. Thus, Tom
sent many of us on a life of spiritual discovery. That was
Tom's contribution to me, and I am sure also to many
others in this room.
anyone here thinks Tom was an aesthetic monk, far from it. He
had a great many interests. Many of you know of his love for
golf. He admired the mechanics of it, the traditions, and
especially its sportsmanship and gentility. His knowledge of
golf was encyclopedic. Just before he died, I took him to the
PGA championship at Quail Hollow. He proceeded to lecture me
for 2 ½ hours on the redesign of the 12th,