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Kannapolis native Janet Ward Black receives Order of the Long Leaf Pine

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — Janet Ward Black wiped at her eyes as tears freely flowed after it was announced she was not just attending a birthday celebration for her mother, Fran Black Holland, but there to receive the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian award.

Black, a Kannapolis native, was Rowan and Cabarrus counties’ first female prosecutor. She is the principal owner of one of the largest woman-owned law firms in North Carolina. Her firm specializes in personal injury law.

Holland, 89, managed to gather a group of 40 of her nearest and dearest friends to celebrate her birthday at Restaurant Forty Six, in the heart of Cannon Village. Black didn’t know she was receiving the prestigious honor at the same celebration.

“I am humbled by this,” Black said. “I am very surprised.”

Black didn’t skip a beat as she moved the celebration along turning the attention away from her and to her mother. She asked local author, Michael Eury, if he would speak about his latest book, “Legendary Locals of Cabarrus County,” which features the two women among 148 other notable people.

Eury said he met with both Janet Ward and her mother to discuss their contributions to not only Cabarrus County, but the state.

Holland, who received the same award in 2007, said she hoped that one day her daughter could also receive the same honor.

“She is the most deserving person who ever got it,” Holland said of her daughter.

She deserves this recognition,” said family friend Les Puntch.

He said he knew Black was receiving the honor when Holland told him and a group of friends who’d gathered together on Friday to celebrate her birthday. He was honored to attend the celebration and take pictures for the family.

“Janet Ward has been so successful and is a really dynamic person,” Puntch said.

He said she does so much with her law firm and her church.

Carolyn Tucker, co-founder of Shoe Show, along with husband, Bob, were also in attendance. The couple received the honor in August 2015.

“It’s certainly deserved. She reaches far and wide,” Carolyn said.

Black served as the third woman president of the North Carolina Association of Trial Lawyers and the fourth woman president of the North Carolina Bar Association. While president of the Bar Association, she created 4 ALL, a  program that offers free legal services to disadvantaged clients.

She was crowned Miss North Carolina in 1980 and the grand talent award winner in the 1981 Miss America pageant.

Black said while serving as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers and the Bar Association as well as representing the state in the Miss North Carolina and Miss America pageant, she was able to “see the good in North Carolina.”

Those experiences also gave her the opportunity to meet some amazing people in the state, she said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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