FUQUAY-VARINA — Jack Senter served as the town attorney for 18 years. But Senter was much more than Fuquay-Varina’s go-to legal expert, said Mayor John Byrne.
Senter, who died May 20, 2012, at the age of 88, was a mentor, a history buff, a judge and a friend to the town, Byrne said.
Town leaders recently presented a plaque to Senter’s family. The plaque, which features an engraved image of Senter, now hangs on the wall behind the town attorney’s chair, where it will remain forever.
If Fuquay-Varina ever builds a new town hall, the plaque will move as well.
Byrne shared memories of Senter – who was well-known for his classic seersucker suits – during a plaque dedication ceremony June 3.
The mayor said he met Senter about 40 years ago when he moved to Fuquay-Varina to work at Fidelity Bank. Senter worked in a building next door and took Byrne under his wing.
“Jack Senter took his time, and I will never forget how patient he was and how I was able to understand what he was explaining to me,” Byrne recalled. “Jack Senter did that for everyone in Fuquay-Varina who needed his help.”
Byrne said it took three months to find out Senter was a judge. Senter served as the Fuquay Springs Recorders Court judge for 13 years.
“He was just my friend Jack. He never said he was a judge,” Byrne said. “Jack would polish up in those neat-looking suits, and he would always do a great job in the community helping with different projects. He knew his community. He knew his people. He loved historic preservation.”
Senter grew up in Kipling in Harnett County and started college at Duke University. But he was soon drafted during World War II and served in the U.S. Navy. His ship was involved in the invasion of southern France and the invasion of Okinawa.
After the war, Senter later graduated with a law degree from Mercer University in Georgia and opened a law practice in what was then Fuquay Springs – now Fuquay-Varina. He served as town attorney from 1974 to 1992.
Senter’s wife, Frances Ashworth Senter, said she was touched by the town’s gesture to honor her husband.
“I thought it was really nice that they remembered him, because he did work hard,” she said. “He always said if you don’t enjoy your job you ought to quit and find something you really like to do, because life is too short.”
She said her husband was a fixture at Campbell’s Diner, a community institution, and one of the best Tail Twisters, or pep masters, for the Fuquay-Varina Lions Club.
“He had a joke for everything,” she recalled.
Town Commissioner Bill Harris said Senter helped give him perspective.
“I grew up in the segregated South,” said Harris, who is black. “He reiterated to me the good things we have here in America. He drove home to me (that) democracy isn’t perfect. But it’s the best ideal on the face of the earth. That had a significant impact on me.”
Senter regularly reminded him about the importance of looking for opportunities instead of barriers, Harris said.
“He always made me feel that he was interested in what I had to say. I will always remember him for that,” Harris said.
Mark Cumalander, who now serves as the town attorney, called Senter “quick-witted,” “bright” and “knowledgeable.”
“He was a gentleman. He was a lawyer. He was a gentleman’s lawyer,” Cumalander said. “He was just a special person that you don’t encounter often in your life.”