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Jurist William Alexander Hoke was born in Lincolnton on October 25, 1851 to John Franklin and Catherine Wilson Alexander Hoke. He attended the Lincolnton Male Academy and later studied law under Chief Justice Richmond M. Pearson at Richmond Hill. Hoke was admitted to the bar on his twenty-first birthday. He launched a law practice in Shelby and worked there for eight years, after which time he returned home to Lincolnton enter into practice with his father. The elder Hoke died suddenly in 1888. The following year William Hoke was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives.
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Hoke’s career on the bench began in 1904 when he was elected in 1890 as judge in the Superior Court. He was elected as an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1904 and served continuously (reelected in 1912 and 1920) until he was appointed chief justice June 2, 1924, upon the death of Walter Clark. Although he was elected to the same post in November 1924, he resigned in March 1925 due to failing health. He died on September 12, 1925 and was buried at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
Hoke regarded the high point of his life to have been his part in chairing the commission to secure for the Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C., a statue of his friend, former Governor Zebulon B. Vance. He delivered the presentation address in Washington on June 22, 1916. It is said that Hoke was sitting in a chair at Rex Hospital telling his doctor about that day when he died suddenly of heart failure. Both the University of North Carolina and Davidson College conferred honorary doctorates of laws on William A. Hoke, who was described by a contemporary justice as a “superb lawyer” and “splendid judge” who was “one of North Carolina’s truly great men.”
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 166-167—sketch by Walser H. Allen Jr.
William L. Sherrill, Annals of Lincoln County. North Carolina (1967)
Archibald Henderson, The Old North State and the New, II (1941)
William Alexander Hoke Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill: http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/h/Hoke,William_Alexander.html