A Letter to My Younger Self

Bob Hunter, a white man with grey hair and wire-rimmed glasses, wears a white button-down shirt and pale blue tie and a black judge's robe.By Bob Hunter

Bobby Cooke (now Bob Hunter),

Here I am Chair of the North Carolina Bar Association Senior Lawyers Division, Justice on the Cherokee Supreme Court, Chairman of the North Carolina Property Tax Commission, former North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge, and former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. How in the world did a child from a meager home in Marion, North Carolina, whose father was an alcoholic and left home when I was five and never contacted my mother or me again, accomplish this?

Well, as I think back on it, it has to start with my mother Lucy (Turner) Cooke. She raised me by herself until she remarried Penn Hunter when I was 12 years old. What a strong, wonderful and supportive mother she was.

I received an excellent education from the McDowell County Schools. I had very supportive teachers there who helped me to want to succeed and be of service to others. My stepfather Penn Hunter (who adopted me) served one term in the North Carolina House, which sparked my interest in state government and politics. Having excelled in high school, I was nominated for the Morehead Scholarship and made it to the finals in Chapel Hill. My brother, John Cook, who was eight years older and very supportive of me, had attended and graduated from North Carolina State, where I’d planned to attend. My Chapel Hill visit (even though I didn’t get the Morehead) turned out to be a blessing as it convinced me I wanted to be a Tar Heel.

My four undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina provided me a very good education and opportunities for service (president of Teague Dorm, governor of Scott Residence College, and chairman of the Men’s Residence Council Court, among others). It also prepared me to be admitted to the UNC School of Law, which allowed me to become a lawyer – the main thing that led to my present public service positions.

I love being a lawyer. It opened up many opportunities to make a difference in my small town of Marion in McDowell County and in our great state. I think that almost all good community projects have a lawyer involved. I realized over the years that as a lawyer, I had an obligation to serve others and make things better where I could. I feel that I’ve been blessed to be a member of a profession that allows me to make a good living while making things better for others.

I was able to do this while serving in the North Carolina House for almost 18 years, where I helped pass major legislation involving transportation, natural gas for underserved areas, state parks and victims of crime, among other things. My service there led to my appointment by Governor Hunt to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, where I served for 16 years.

After retiring from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, I was appointed to the Cherokee Supreme Court as an associate justice and also appointed by Governor Cooper to be chairman of the North Carolina Property Tax Commission. I currently serve on both.

Without the loving support of my wonderful wife, Nancy, I would have never been able to serve in those capacities. Service in the legislature is personally rewarding, but not financially rewarding. I could not have served if Nancy had not been at home working full-time in Morganton in a good job while also raising our two amazing daughters, Megan H. Entriken and Claire H. Duff. She sacrificed, as they did, which allowed me to be away from home on most weekdays. I owe her a great deal, and that is another way I have been blessed to be able to serve.

I don’t think any of this public service would have opened up for me without being a lawyer. I am thankful to the UNC School of Law, which honored me with its Distinguished Alumni Award, the North Carolina State Bar, and the North Carolina Bar Association for giving me the opportunity to give back to my profession. I am especially grateful to the Bar Association, where I serve as a member of the Board of Governors and as Chairman of the Senior Lawyers Division and have been honored to receive the Citizen Lawyer and the Legal Practice Hall of Fame Awards. My hope is that as North Carolina Bar Association members reach age 65 (you are automatically a member of the Senior Lawyers Division), they will stay active with the division. It is a wonderful way to finish a career.

Being a lawyer has blessed me. I don’t understand when I hear a lawyer say they don’t want their child to be a lawyer. I am so proud that my daughter, Claire, chose our profession without my prodding. I was extremely proud when I swore her in to our profession.

Bobby, I started this letter to you asking how I could’ve accomplished these things. Now, I realize how. I have been blessed to be a lawyer.

My best,

Your not-so-young (I refuse to say old) self.