Remembering Ed McCormick

Former mayor, attorney, judge and Rotarian was known for his humanitarian work

By Tom Woerner
Dunn Daily Record

Harnett County suffered another blow from the ongoing global pandemic with the passing of former Chief District Court Judge Ed McCormick over the weekend.

Ed McCormick

McCormick was one of the best known jurists in the region. He died at Central Harnett Hospital in Lillington Saturday after a brief battle with the COVID-19 virus. The judge contracted the infection even after he was vaccinated earlier this year.

A native of the western part of Harnett County, McCormick had a long career as a lawyer and judge in the county. He culminated his career in his last full-time position before retirement as chief district court judge. Even after retirement he served as a substitute judge at locations around the state.

Prior to taking the bench, he served in private practice and as attorney for Harnett County, providing legal counsel during a period of great growth in the area.

McCormick was active in the Harnett County Democratic Party, and worked intimately with local candidates in the party including then Harnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman and former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge and the late U.S. Sen. Robert Morgan.

McCormick served as county attorney during the period Etheridge served as a commissioner. Etheridge said McCormick provided substantial legal support of major projects in the county. Most notably, he discovered ways to legally build the county’s metropolitan water district.

“I remember we worked until 2 or 3 in the morning one night but Ed came up with a legal way to do it,” Etheridge said. “He found a case in Mecklenburg County that we could use here.”

Etheridge said creativity was McCormick’s specialty.

“He didn’t wear it on his shoulders, but Ed was smart as a whip and one of the most creative people I ever knew,” Etheridge said.

During McCormick’s time with county commissioners, Harnett high schools consolidated and the Harnett Regional Jetport opened.

Ed and Ann McCormick dance at the Cornelius Harnett Gala in Lillington in 2018. Mr. McCormick came up with the original idea of the gala. DAILY RECORD FILE PHOTO / TOM WOERNER

In addition to his county work, McCormick served part of a term as mayor of Lillington. He resigned the position before his term was complete when his family moved out of the city limits.

McCormick was well known in the area for his work with the Rotary Club of Lillington and other local charities.

He was the brainchild behind the club’s ongoing Cornelius Harnett Gala more than 30 years ago. The event named in honor of the county’s namesake continues to raise thousands of dollars each year to support club projects.

Current club President Richard Chapman issued a statement on McCormick’s passing.

“Ed was a giant in Harnett County,” Chapman said. “He was a man whose life and impact will be felt for years to come. He was a person of grace and charity. He spoke with an intellect that was awe inspiring in its depth and insight. The club will miss him greatly as will the community he served.”

In addition to Rotary, McCormick was also active in the Boy Scouts of America and the Lillington Presbyterian Church. His entirety of good works earned him the state’s highest civilian award, The Order of the Longleaf Pine.

His friends say he will be missed. One of those was Dr. Catherine Evans who is a member of the Rotary Club and knew McCormick for many years.

“He was such a wonderful person,” Evans said. “He was loved and respected and he truly lived a virtuous life.”