There will be a noticeable absence among the legal community and at the Warren County Courthouse at the end of this month when Warrenton attorney Julius E. “Jules” Banzet III retires after 50 years of practicing law.
Friends, family and associates from the 9th Judicial District and beyond congratulated him and wished him well during a reception hosted last week by his law firm, Banzet, Thompson & Styers.
A lifelong resident of Warren County, Banzet, whose many interests include farming timber, said in an interview that his retirement would include watching his pine trees grow, sitting on a pier at his lake house and working on his “honey-do” list.
“I also plan to make a joyful noise with some (hunting) equipment I have, too,” he said. “There’s all manner of things that have been neglected.”
Banzet comes from a family of men who left their mark on the legal profession. His father, Julius Banzet, started practicing law in Norlina in 1921 and later had an office on Courthouse Square in Warrenton with Buck Williams. After Williams’ death, Jules’s uncle, Frank Banzet, joined the practice. Around 1931, Julius Banzet built the core of the office building on Front Street where the current day law firm is located. Jules joined Banzet and Banzet after graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill and passing the bar exam in 1962.
Jules’s father and uncle were mentors in the early years of his practicing law, and in 1968 Julius Banzet became a district court judge. Attorney Al Thompson joined the firm in 1977, and after Frank Banzet retired, attorney Mitch Styers came in and, later, attorney Robby May.
Over the years, Banzet said he has experienced many changes in the legal profession, from the formation of the current district court system to advances in technology.
He recalled using a Royal typewriter while in law school and the days when typing speed and taking shorthand were important skills for legal assistants, or what was formerly referred to as secretaries.
Banzet, who has focused largely on real estate law for the past five to seven years, also noted that transactions such as buying a house used to consist of several documents ranging in length from one to four pages, but that today, loan packages run 50 pages or more.
Banzet was among attorneys honored in October at the 2012 Fifty-Year Lawyers Luncheon held at the 79th Annual Meeting of the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh. He was chosen to give a speech and talked about change being the only constant in life. In a short bio written for the meeting’s program, Banzet listed among his proudest achievements obtaining a not guilty verdict in a first-degree murder case, being able to answer real estate questions for young lawyers and serving as the North Carolina State Bar councilor for the 9th Judicial District for 15 of the past 18 years. He was recognized for the latter last month during the 9th District’s annual bar dinner, as well as during last week’s reception by Judge Robert Hobgood, superior court judge for the 9th District.
“He has brought distinction to our part of the state as he has brought distinction on himself by his service, and I just wanted to commend him and congratulate him for all the years of hard work he has done in his position as councilor of the State Bar without getting reimbursement,” Hobgood said.
Throughout his career, Banzet has made many friends and recalled with humor his bond with a former register of deeds here, Jim Hundley, and retired Warrenton attorney Charles T. Johnson, Jr.
“Jim Hundley was one of the funniest men I knew,” Banzet said.
Johnson recently shared comments on Banzet’s retirement and also remembered the special relationship the three men had.
“Jules Banzet has been my friend since I moved to Warrenton in 1956. Then we were the young kids on the block; now we are the old-timers in the legal community. Throughout his career, Jules has practiced law skillfully, conscientiously and ethically,” Johnson said. “On a lighter side, Jules was a valuable member of the courthouse trio of Banzet, Hundley and Johnson; we met almost daily for afternoon Cokes and tall tales during all the years that Jim Hundley was register of deeds. Since my confinement to a wheelchair in 2005, Jules has given me the benefit of his greatest qualities: faithfulness and compassion. On behalf of Jim Hundley and myself, I say, ‘Well done, my friend!’ “
For many years, Banzet has been an almost daily visitor at the Warren County Courthouse where he performs legal work and research, and keeps tabs on the happenings of the day. When asked how it would feel not frequenting the place on a regular basis, he gave a practical answer.
“I won’t have to have on a necktie every day,” Banzet said, laughing.
Longtime friend and Clerk of Superior Court Richard Hunter called the courthouse Banzet’s “second office.”
“Jules is a creature of habit. Fortunately they are good habits. After opening his office each morning he comes to the courthouse to check on the staff at the Register of Deeds and Clerk’s office. He is interested in the health and welfare of the courthouse employees,” Hunter said. “His knowledge of property ownership, acquired over the last 50 years of searching titles, is phenomenal. He is generous in sharing that knowledge with out-of-town lawyers and surveyors doing research in the courthouse. He has a keen attention to detail, which is crucial in reviewing legal documents. He will be hard to replace.”
Banzet’s willingness to share his expertise in the field of real estate is something Audrey Tippett, who owns Benton Real Estate in Warrenton, has found helpful over the past 10 years.
“He is a wealth of information about properties and their ownership, both now and in the past. In addition, he is a true ‘Southern Gentleman’ and treats everyone with respect and dignity,” she said. “It has been my pleasure to work with him and to count him as a friend and mentor.”
In addition to his achievements as an attorney, Banzet has the distinction of being Warren County’s first Eagle Scout. He is a lifelong member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Warrenton, where he has served as treasurer and as chairman of the Board of Trustees, is secretary and past-president of the Warren County Forestry Cub, is a trustee of the Vance-Granville Community College Endowment Fund, and past attorney for the town of Norlina. He currently serves as a commissioner for the town of Warrenton.
Banzet is married to the former Harriet Daniel of Warrenton. They have two children, Julius “Jule” Edmond Banzet IV and Ann Howard Banzet, and two grandsons, Julius “J” Edmond Banzet V and William “Will” Ross Banzet.