Setting the Bar for ConnectSep 02, 2020 10:03PM ● By Alexis Mason
Little did William (Bill) P. Pope, Partner and President at Pope McMillan, P.A. - Statesville, NC. in Downtown Statesville - Statesville, NC know that he lit a flame in our Publisher with his vision for a countywide community website that would burn for 7 years.
On December 6, 2013, our publisher recalls the pleasure of sitting down to discuss marketing opportunities throughout Iredell County in Attorney Bill Pope's office. While discussing a current marketing campaign, Pope said, "It would be great if we had a community calendar for Iredell County. That would be something I'd like to sponsor." That idea alone has stuck with our publisher for seven years, and it is this idea that is responsible for the launch of Connect Iredell.
Over the last several decades, this man has always believed in the potential that Iredell County has to offer. As a strong advocate for his community, Bill Pope has provided professional community representation as an attorney since 1969. His firm, Pope McMillan P.A., has been an integral part of Iredell with roots dating back to 1915. The very successful firm has a long history of local investment, both professionally and personally.
As we prepared to outline the inspiration behind Connect Iredell, we had the pleasure to sit down with Mr. Pope and learn how he got his start in the field of law. We learned that he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his undergraduate studies and for law school. With an aptitude for business, it wasn’t until a conversation with the dean of the law school at UNC that his path was made clear to him.
Laying the groundwork for a legacy of lawyers
“In the back of my mind, I have always been interested in politics. My grandfather had wanted one of his grandsons to become a lawyer, and I knew that lawyers were involved in government,” Pope shared. “I took the LSAT and did well, so I went to talk to Dean Phillips, who was the head of the law school at that time. From there we developed a relationship that persuaded me to attend law school.” It is interesting to note that Pope’s grandfather now has 14 descendants who practice law, and the 15th has recently graduated from law school.
During the early years of Pope’s journey, he was primarily interested in criminal law. He quickly realized that he was not a fan of the criminal justice system. “In the real world, the system is extremely unorganized. I did not like how the majority of the cases were centered around drugs. It wasn’t long before I knew that I wanted to steer towards business law,” said Pope.
The Vietnam War was raging while Pope was in school at UNC. Once he graduated, the war was not yet over. Pope had joined the army reserves during this time. He explained, “It was by pure chance that the unit I was assigned to did not become active during the war. During that time the economy was good as a result of the war. There were more opportunities available because others were overseas and I had a lot of options for work.”
Finding a home in Iredell County
While looking for work, Mr. Pope and his wife both knew that they wanted to settle in a small town in North Carolina. His wife, who is from the Lenoir area, and Pope, who is from Dunn, eventually agreed that Statesville would be their home after stumbling upon it while looking at a map. It officially became their home once Pope landed a job here. “I had visited Statesville a handful of times during the interview process, and I was impressed by what I saw.” According to Pope, “The difference in philosophy was astounding. There was a culture of merit in Statesville. There was industry here and exciting things were happening.”
"Law practice is not just a business. Our philosophy has always been to provide professional community representation.” Pope stated, “As an attorney, you have a responsibility and a duty to your community.” This is exactly what Pope has spent his entire career doing.
In December of 2016, Pope was awarded the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. The award is North Carolina's highest civilian honor. He received this honor after stepping down from his role of attorney and counsel of Iredell County, which was a position he held for 32 years.
“It has been really satisfying to help people realize their dreams. People come to me with a germ of an idea and I help them water it,” explained Pope. “It’s always been about helping others.”
When asked what piece of advice he would offer to someone who was looking to pursue a career in the legal profession, Pope responded by saying, “Don’t do it unless you have a passion for helping people. Make sure you enter for the right reasons.”
Along with practicing law and serving his community, Pope has other interests. One project that he has taken a personal interest in is the development of Fort Dobbs - Statesville, NC in Statesville. Pope provided, “It is a great teaching tool for the community and it has been one of my favorite organizations to work with.” The fort went under a huge renovation that was completed in the fall of 2019. It now acts as a living exhibit of the French and Indian War.
These You Know
Additionally, Pope is currently in the process of publishing a book titled, These You Know. “The book is a collection of short stories that will include 10 - 15 fictional characters,” Pope added. The short stories will delve into the world of character studies; something that Pope is familiar with and interested in. “The characters will be loosely based on different character stereotypes. The reader should be able to read about them and connect them to different characters in their own life,” Pope said.
Pope shared that he has been influenced by many people. In particular, he mentioned that his two grandfathers had strong character which influenced him, as well as his mother who lived to be 110 years old. Pope also shared that his law partners have influenced him over the years. “We’ve always been involved here [Pope McMillan]. I have been inspired by my predecessors, who were strong advocates for the community,” Pope concluded.
The interview ended when we asked Pope what kind of legacy he hopes to leave behind after a vibrant, service-filled career. He left us with the hope that people would think of him and say, “He did his best."