Robert Wardlaw Warren, 75, died on March 9, 2020. He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Julie Dews of Montreat, NC; his children, Riley Abel (Harris) of Mt. Pleasant, SC; Wyche Scarimbolo (Matt) of Irmo, SC; Dan Brown (Emily) of Asheville, NC; and Matt Brown (Sandy) of Mill Spring, NC; his brother, Dr. Thomas B. Warren, Jr. (Marcia); and his sister, Mary Jo Dewar. He also leaves eight grandchildren: Flora, William, Caro, Joseph, Somer, Brion, Cate, and Jillian.
Bob composed his own obituary:
Bob was the third child born in Allendale, South Carolina to Mannie Wardlaw Warren and T Baker Warren. His brother, Tommy, and sister, Mary Jo, helped raise Bob, taking him on rides in a cart pulled by a billy goat and swimming in the creek at Martin.
Bob was a determined child and showed this grit early when he organized a group of boys to dig a swimming pool (10’x 20’) in Bob’s backyard by promising the diggers a swim in the pool if they helped with the project. Bob’s Dad, Baker, faced with a large hole in the ground, agreed to finish the pool if the well-digger could find water next to the hole. When the well generated water, Baker completed the job. Bob and his friends swam for many years in the swimming pool, which was later enjoyed by all of Baker and Mannie’s grandchildren.
After graduating from Presbyterian College (where he played football for four years), Bob married Caro Riley from Allendale and they had two daughters, Riley and Wyche, before they were divorced. During the two years Bob spent in the Army, he met the Severances who became lifelong friends.
Bob loved both of his daughters and made many trips to see them in plays, dance recitals, and as cheerleaders. He also took them to Montreat during the summers and introduced them to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Bob had come to his great aunts’ Montreat house as a young boy and participated in Montreat Club’s day camp, and he wanted his children to have the same experiences.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a JD and an MBA, Bob passed his bar exam in South Carolina in 1973 and opened a law office in Allendale where he confronted his own racism and the white supremacist culture in South Carolina. One of Bob’s lawyer friends told him that Bob was an expert “in what the law should be, not what the law is.” Bob’s tendency to challenge those in authority resulted in numerous court cases appealed to the SC Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and even to the U.S. Supreme Court. The NAACP was an early and frequent litigant represented by Bob or by Lewis Pitts, a dear friend and law partner. Warren & Pitts became known for its feisty reputation and law partners who were willing to go to jail after civil disobedience actions.
After Bob had worn out his welcome in South Carolina (with law license intact), he naturally moved to Montreat, North Carolina. When he passed the NC bar exam, he opened a law office in Black Mountain where he practiced law for twenty-four years.
Bob met his second wife, Julie Dews, at a Pledge of Resistance Civil Disobedience training in Asheville. Julie was the love of his life, and they were married in 1987. He and Julie had many happy times over the years – dancing and listening to music at David Peele’s McDibbs in Black Mountain; taking trips on the Blue Ridge Parkway; laughing with Nina and Larry Yonce; watching the Braves and Netflix and Acorn; reading books; waltzing in a barn in Ashe County; canoeing in pretty places; going on family beach vacations; and enjoying many other activities including train trips across Canada and the US where “Ain’t life rich?” was frequently spoken.
Julie’s two sons, Dan and Matt, were not thrilled with their stepfather at first, but gradually saw that Bob loved them just like his own children. While Julie finished law school in Boston, Bob helped take care of the kids as he continued to practice law. He valued his work with Lumbees, Tuscaroras, and Cherokees and with Energy Department employees.
Bob was particularly proud of his grandchildren and appreciated their activities and their visits when they worked on different art projects or when they played the piano or other musical instruments. He was fortunate to have lived a good life surrounded by loving family members and always felt like he was incredibly lucky.
A Memorial will be held at St. James Episcopal Church, Black Mountain NC, on Saturday, March 14th, 2020 at 2:30pm. Memorial gifts may be made to St James or to wncceib.org.