High-profile N. Carolina attorney Bill Diehl dies at 78

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bill Diehl, a longtime high-profile North Carolina attorney whose family and friends recalled his passion as a legal advocate and in life, has died at age 78.

Diel died Thursday in a Charlotte retirement community from complications related to his latest stroke, his brother, Danny, told The Charlotte Observer. Diehl had been in mostly declining health since he retired from his law practice in 2016.

Known for his shoulder-length, reddish-blonde hair, Diehl represented a number of well-known clients in criminal, civil or divorce proceedings. They included NASCAR team owner and car dealer Rick Hendrick, former Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn, and speedway track owner Bruton Smith.

Family and friends said Diehl was a man of huge appetites and multiple passions, from large collections of record albums and wine to a 43-foot sailboat.

“He really broke the mold. I tell young lawyers all the time, ‘Don’t try to be Bill Diehl. It won’t work for you. You’re not Bill Diehl,’” said Ed Hinson, a longtime law partner.

Diehl grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and relocated to eastern North Carolina as a teenager. He went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia law school. His larger-than-life demeanor in the courtroom shaded over the work he did for clients.

“He was probably one of the best-prepared lawyers that ever appeared in my courtroom,” retired Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Richard Boner told the Observer in 2018. “I know that he was expensive. But I will tell you this: He fulfilled, in every case that I witnessed, the mandate that’s in the canon of ethics for attorneys — that you should represent your client zealously within the bounds of the law.”

A memorial service for Diehl, who is survived by two children from a former marriage, will be held in the new year, the newspaper reported.