Marvin Bethune, Distinguished Davidsonian
Though he has only recently become a resident, Marvin Bethune says Davidson has felt like home since the first time he stepped foot on the Davidson College campus. His involvement with the college began when he was a youngster growing up in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte. A friend’s father, who was an alumnus of the college, introduced the boys to Davidson basketball. They spent many fond hours listening to games on the radio or watching the few that were televised.
During his senior year at Myers Park High, Davidson became Marvin’s logical college choice. His early decision acceptance sealed the deal, and in September 1966 he moved 25 miles up the road for four years of study. The career plan was to major in economics (which he did), earn an MBA at UNC Business School, and become a banker, or otherwise some type of financier. But Carolina required business students to take a foreign language course, which was Marvin’s “Achilles Heel.” On the other hand, UNC Law School didn’t have that onerous requirement, and Marvin figured a law degree was probably as good a path to banking as a business degree.
Though he found the courtroom side of law unappealing, he thrived at the reading, research, and writing aspects of the law. Focusing on that area, he earned an outstanding record at Carolina, earning selection for Moot Court and the Law Review. His achievements were well-received at the State of North Carolina Supreme Court, and Marvin was selected to spend a clerkship year in those hallowed halls.
Returning to Charlotte as a law school graduate, on July 1, 1974, he started a job with the Charlotte law firm of Ruff, Bond, Cobb, Wade and McNair, a firm whose clients included Mecklenburg County. But partners in the firm who handled county matters needed help from the new associate and were glad to pass more and more county work to the “new kid.” Bethune loved the diversity of matters that county work included, and at age 30, just four years out of law school, he was appointed as the County Attorney.
For the next 39 years, as Mecklenburg County grew and expanded, Bethune handled increasingly complex county matters that, in time, required his full-time attention.
“It’s been like a general practice, but with a statutory and regulatory overlay,” he said. “It was intellectually challenging, because I was always doing different things.”
One of his most memorable matters involved the relocation of the Knights baseball team and creation of Romare Bearden Park in mid-town Charlotte. That deal was complicated by the number of parties involved, and by the fact that a resident of Charlotte filed seven law suits in an attempt to thwart it.
But back to Davidson…
In February 1978 Marvin married Pattie Cherry, a Virginia Tech graduate in textile merchandising. Marvin worked constantly at his job, and Pattie traveled a week or so most months, buying women’s tops. Their busy schedules didn’t allow for much of a social life. But what free time they did have in the early years of their marriage was devoted to Davidson basketball. They seldom missed a game, whether it was in the old Johnston Gym on campus, or at the Charlotte Coliseum. Once their two children moved out of the house and on to college, they started back closely following Davidson basketball. They are season ticket holders and members of the Fast Break team support club, and try to attend the conference tournaments.
A few years ago Marvin and Pattie started planning for retirement, and Davidson was the logical selection as a place to settle down. Last July the couple moved into a townhouse in the St. Albans neighborhood and in December he told his firm of his plans to retire as County Attorney in March. He’s not quite fully retired yet, and is working on county matters about 10 hours a week, helping its new County Attorney understand matters he had been handling. He says he’s ready to quit for certain any time the county staff wants to let him go, but he’s happy to keep working until then.
Now that he’s a town resident, he would like to get involved in town/gown activities and volunteer work. So far, he was able to take the town’s Civics 101 course, and he has signed on as a Davidson Network volunteer. He wants to also get involved with the community garden, and continue his involvement with Scouting through one of the local troops. There are also two grandchildren and another on the way, to visit and spoil.
At age 70, he’s glad to be in Davidson for good. Though Charlotte and the downtown law practice served him well for decades, he has finally determined he’s a small-town guy, and that’s Davidson. “It just feels more comfortable,” he concluded. “And it’s also a lot closer to Wildcat basketball!
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.