The law firm of Murchison, Taylor, and Gibson is intertwined in Wilmington's history
By DAVID HOWELL Photos by Salt Studio
Oak trees, Spanish moss, brick streets, and historic homes… these are a few of the more prominent features of the landscape in downtown Wilmington. They are equally representative of the culture and community here, the town’s rich history, and the people who have made the Cape Fear Region’s past unique and enduring.
Those who take spring and summer walks through downtown’s lower five or six blocks stop frequently to admire these natural and architectural wonders as if a painting in a museum. They take photos so they can carry a bit of Wilmington home, not realizing that many of the historic homes downtown have been renovated and preserved not only as cherished residential spaces, but also to house some of the region’s most well respected business offices.
Four of these homes near the corner of Fifth and Market, on the same block as the Bellamy Mansion, house the law firm of Murchison, Taylor, and Gibson, PLLC, comprised of 14 attorneys and their staff, with many practice areas, including business and tax law, mergers and acquisitions, health care, real estate and development, employment law, litigation, and wills and estate planning. When taken as a whole, the firm’s work and commitment to the community has involved it in many aspects of Wilmington’s civic life, and make it an important part of the town’s history in the last half-century.
The firm was started by Wallace C. Murchison and Oliver Carter in 1955. James C. Fox and Louis K. Newton joined the firm shortly after its founding. Founder Murchison was with the firm for forty years from its origination until his retirement in 1994, and among various other affiliations, was a part of some of Wilmington’s most important community institutions, including the Cape Fear United Way, the UNCW Foundation, the Bellamy Mansion, and the Historic Wilmington Foundation—one of Wilmington’s most vital non-profits responsible for preserving historic homes. Wallace’s son and current partner, Michael Murchison, has also served as president of the Historic Wilmington Foundation.
Another one of the firm’s early partners, the Honorable James C. Fox, was with the practice for over twenty years, before he was nominated by President Reagan for appointment as a District Court Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Prior to his appointment, he had served as County Attorney for New Hanover County. Some of the cases heard by Judge Fox from 1982 onward were significant enough to draw the attention of the New York Times and even major television networks.
Today, the firm’s attorneys are proud to carry on this tradition of commitment, community involvement and service. Since 1990, when Interstate 40 was extended from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Wilmington, the city has seen unprecedented growth that continues to this day. Many of southeastern North Carolina’s largest and most respected real estate developers work closely with the firm’s real estate department, whose practice is primarily devoted to commercial real estate. Led by partner Joe Taylor who has been with the firm for over 40 years, the real estate department spends their time dealing with everything from land and property acquisitions to financing and development issues. The firm also handles a number of mergers and other transactions for companies and health care providers which have been longstanding contributors to the economic health of the community, as well as newer companies, such as PPD and Live Oak Bank, which are essential to Wilmington’s future growth.
“We’re pleased that we have a strong legacy of service to the community and that we remain a strong part of Wilmington’s business and cultural life,” says Attorney Andrew McVey, a member of the firm’s litigation section.
On being a part of the larger community, Michael Murchison says, “We’ve always prided ourselves on providing excellent professional services to our clients, and tried to foster community involvement and the betterment of the community.”
To that end, it’s not surprising when you learn that the firm has been closely involved for many years with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, UNC-Wilmington Foundation, the Landscapes of Opportunity Foundation at NC State University, and the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts. Attorneys in the firm have been active with numerous other local and regional non-profit, charitable and religious groups and causes, including the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, Wilmington Business Development, New Hanover County Community Foundation, North Carolina Community Foundation, Coastal Horizons Center, Good Shepherd Center, Southeastern Community Development Commission, NHRMC Foundation, Hospice Foundation, and Greater Wilmington Chamber Foundation.
“All of our attorneys contribute to the community in substantial ways,” says McVey. That the law firm Murchison started in 1955 can still play such a prominent role in our centuries-old community appears to be a historical fact that many of us don’t even realize, but should appreciate.
The firm’s ties to Wilmington should also be enough to give us pause… When we stop on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Market Street to admire the widow’s peak atop the Bellamy Mansion, we might wonder who makes that possible. Or when we take pictures under giant oaks in front of downtown’s oldest homes, we might consider that the very people who make many of them possible are sitting right there inside, working quietly and diligently to keep our community what it is. 910-763-2426, murchisontaylor.com