Richard M. Wiggins

Fayetteville, North Carolina

I was born in Cumberland County, graduated from the public schools there and attended the University of North Carolina.  I graduated from UNC in 1955.   I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after graduation.  Like most folks of their generation, my parents taught me it was important to help other people.  My father told me that I could help more people if I were a lawyer.  While that was always in the back of my mind, during my senior year I accepted a job as a town manager for a little community of Winterville.  Just before graduation, while sitting on the steps of Murphy Hall waiting for my next class, Richie Smith and Harold Downing came by.  I asked where they might be heading, and they said there were going over to apply for law school.  They suggested I come along.  I said "sure," and that's how I happened to apply for law school.  I was then married and my parents and in-laws agreed to help subsidize my law school education.  Of course, I graduated in 1958. 

Prior to graduating law school I clerked in the office of Sanford, Phillips, and Weaver.  I spent that summer learning to search titles and driving Terry Sanford to political events as he was beginning to gear up for the gubernatorial race of 1960.  After graduation, I was invited to join that firm.  Dick Phillips was my first mentor and he taught me many things, including the need to be as technically correct as possible and the need to pursue every avenue in trying to solve a legal problem.  Both of those were invaluable lessons.  Don McCoy and Stacy Weaver were outstanding lawyers with great client relationship skills and were both a great help to me. 

Terry was elected Governor in 1960, Dick left to teach at UNC Law soon after and Stacy, Don and I continued to practice together.  While the firm has changed over years, I have spent my entire career of over fifty years with it. 

During my first few years in practice, I did what all country lawyers did: try drunk driving cases and petty misdemeanors, try personal injury cases, and search many titles.  Some of my proudest moments as a lawyer have come while serving on the capital appointment list for my district.  I have defended a number of capital cases, and none of my clients have ever received the death penalty.  My practice evolved to doing defense work for several insurance companies and eventually becoming trial counsel for Mid-South Insurance Company, a health insurance carrier then based in Fayetteville.  During the course of that representation I traveled throughout Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi trying bad faith insurance cases.  One case that I defended was a bad faith insurance case filed in Gulfport, Mississippi.  The plaintiff was represented by Will Denton, who happened to be a law school classmate of John Grisham. That case had many twists and turns.  After it was over, Will turned over parts of his file to Mr. Grisham.  The Rainmaker was published several months later, with the events of our case making up much of the plot. 

I have tried many cases over my career.  Hopefully, I have done what good trial lawyers do, which is to dedicate themselves to assisting the poor, the injured, and those who have been cheated.  Another case I am proud of arose out of my representation of many elderly persons who had been cheated out of their life savings by a scheming, self-styled investment advisor who bilked money out of them by promising unrealistic returns on their investment.  The defendant happened to be licensed by two insurance companies.  By reason of that agency, the companies had liability for his actions and we were able to recover most, if not all, of the money those folks had lost when the defendant's ponzi scheme collapsed. 

I greatly enjoy my legal career and dread that day I am no longer physically able to practice.  I have great hope for the profession.  The lawyers coming out of law school to day have a great opportunity and my only hope is that they love the challenge as much as I have.

Areas of Practice

  • DUI
  • Eminent Domain
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Real Estate Litigation

Bar Admissions

  • North Carolina, 1958
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 1979
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of North Carolina
  • U.S. District Court Middle District of North Carolina
  • U.S. District Court Western District of North Carolina
  • U.S. Supreme Court


  • University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    • J.D. - 1958
  • The University of North Carolina
    • A.B. - 1955

Honors and Awards

  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Rated