The legal community was shocked Wednesday to learn about the sudden death of longtime Abingdon, Virginia, attorney Barry Proctor.
Farris Funeral Services confirmed it is serving Proctor’s family, but arrangements were incomplete Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a huge loss for the community, not just for the legal community,” said Washington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Josh Cumbow. “He was well-respected and well-liked.”
Proctor had been involved in civil and criminal cases in state and federal courts and was one of Abingdon’s only attorneys able to handle capital cases.
“He always gave his clients great representation,” Cumbow said.
Cumbow was in Washington County General District Court on Wednesday when a clerk informed those in the courtroom that Proctor had died.
“It was a huge shock,” said Cumbow, adding that the entire legal community was in mourning.
Cumbow was in juvenile court Tuesday with Proctor.
“I didn’t know there was anything wrong,” he said. “He was upbeat.”
Nicole Price, who previously served as the lead prosecutor in Washington County and now works in private practice, said she knew and worked with Proctor for the last 20 years.
“He was a genuinely good person who lived the faith he believed in,” Price said. “Because of that, he leaves a void not just in his family and the friends who loved him but also the legal community of Southwest Virginia. He will be sorely missed.”
As prosecutor, Price had many cases on the other side of the aisle.
“No matter the situation or the issue, Barry was always the same, doing his best, but in a professional and friendly way,” Price said.
Proctor presented a number of cases in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.
“I join with Barry Proctor's many friends and admirers in my sorrow at his passing,” U.S. District Court Judge James Jones said in a statement. “Barry was an outstanding lawyer who helped many people find their way through the legal system. I will miss seeing him in court and pass on my deepest sympathy to his family.”
Heather Howard, an attorney in Abingdon at the firm Jessee, Read & Howard, said Proctor was a mentor to many lawyers in the area, including her. She rented office space from him a number of years ago.
“Barry wasn’t an attorney because he wanted any type of recognition or glory,” she said. “He was an attorney that had compassion for people in his heart.”
Howard recalled that Proctor was often a welcome voice at retirements for judges and other attorneys because his sense of humor was “absolutely second to none.”
“He was the gold standard,” Howard said Wednesday. Later, she offered a slightly different description for her friend and mentor. “Maybe solid gold isn’t enough — maybe solid platinum.”
Randy Eads, Bristol, Virginia’s city manager and city attorney, said Proctor’s passing “will be a loss to the bar around here.”
“Regardless of whether it was in the courthouse, you saw him at the grocery store, or anywhere else out in the community, he was just a genuine person who was always willing to lend a hand and listen if you had a problem,” Eads said.
Jack White, a recently retired Abingdon-based attorney, described Proctor as “a first-class human being in every sense of the word” with contributions to the legal profession, as well as to his family, community and church.
White pointed to Proctor’s representation of defendants in death penalty cases and in cases where defendants needed a court-appointed attorney as important work in the legal community.
Cumbow said Proctor was involved in many local organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America Sequoyah Council.
Proctor was involved with the Overmountain District and Troop 222 in Abingdon, according to Scout spokesman Brandon Hart. He has served on several Scout committees, including advancement and finance.
“Barry was a great example of a leader to the Scouts in our district, and to all of the other adults that he worked with,” Hart said. “He was a great teacher and mentor to many in scouting. He will be tremendously missed by all.”
Reporter Tim Dodson contributed to this article.