A Pilot Mountain attorney has been recognized by a statewide legal organization for his community service.
Mike Royster, a courtroom veteran in this area, is a recipient of the Citizen Lawyer Award for 2014, presented by the North Carolina Bar Association during its recent annual meeting in Wilmington.
Royster is only the second attorney from Surry County to receive that honor since the awards program was launched in 2007. The other is Sarah Stevens, a Mount Airy attorney who represents Surry in the N.C. House of Representatives; she received the award in 2011.
The Citizen Lawyer Award recognizes members of the legal profession who are making a difference in their communities.
Royster, a longtime member of the Royster & Royster law firm with his brother Steve, was nominated on the basis of various leadership roles he has filled in Pilot Mountain community deemed to have aided the community at large and youths in particular, including coaching.
He has served for 22 years on the Surry Community College Board of Trustees, including four as vice chairman and chairman, and chaired the Pilot Mountain Foundation.
Royster also been a head coach for 13 years for the Pilot Mountain Little League and the Pilot Mountain Recreational Basketball League, along with playing Santa Claus at two local elementary schools for 20 years.
“I feel the good Lord blessed me with certain talents, and that it was my duty as a lawyer to help my fellow citizens in the community,” Royster said in a statement.
“When a 15-year-old high school student looks you in the eye with tears streaming down her face and tells you, ‘You have changed my life,’ it makes it all worthwhile.”
Royster is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Cumberland School of Law.
The number of recipients varies from year to year, according to Russell Rawlings, a spokesman for the North Carolina Bar Association. It is a voluntary organization of lawyers, paralegals and law students founded in 1899 which is dedicated to serving the public and the legal profession.
This year, there were 19 recipients, with Rawlings pointing out that North Carolina has between 24,000 and 25,000 attorneys in all and the recipients were selected from a statewide slate of nominees.
“One of the aims is indeed to recognize lawyers from all over the state,” Rawlings said Tuesday. “That’s one of the challenges we have — there are so many lawyers.”
Nominations come from others in the legal profession who are familiar with a would-be honoree’s activities, such as fellow attorneys and paralegals. “The award over the years has gained more attention and we’re receiving more nominations, which is what we were trying to do.”
The overall goal of the Citizen Lawyer Award is to highlight the good work that attorneys do behind the scenes which might go unnoticed otherwise, Rawlings said. He believes the image of lawyers has been improved as a result.
“But I know all the jokes and the TV shows and that kind of thing,” Rawlings added of those portrayals that put the legal profession in a bad light.
“It’s always nice to put the good news out there whenever we can.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.