#OURVOICES: Attorney William H. Harding

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If you don’t know this gentleman, our opportunity is for us to introduce you to Attorney William Harding, and vice versa!

He is very much involved in the community, so much so that he’s back and forth literally between states to make thing happen on a legal level, but also in the community.

Brother Harding thank you for taking time and energy to sit with us!

Well it’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to be introduced to some and renew to others, and I am humbled by it. I mean that sincerely.

I have a question in regards to you slogan or your mantra; “If you have a phone, you have a lawyer.” Now I’ve got to ask, where did that come from?

(Laughter) Well that’s a great question, and a great way to start this interview.  As much as I would like to, I can’t take all of the credit for that. When I opened my law firm here in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the things that I observed is that there’s a whole bunch of lawyers down here, and I knew that I was going to need something that would improve my branding and that something that would hit home. So I had talked to my staff and did a round table and we talked, and I really emphasized branding. How do we distinguish ourselves from every other law firm here in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area? We tossed a lot of ideas, and as I said, it has to be simple, but it has to have meaning and purpose. And I thought about it, what is some of the key issues that attorneys or lawyers have in respect to their clients? And one of the issues is access, and often clients have a hard time reaching their lawyer. So I and my staff thought, one of the things, if I somehow could incorporate in my branding that you can get to me, that I am accessible to my clients or potential clients, I think that would go a long way. I don’t know about you, but most folks I know, not just in Charlotte, but across this country, have a phone.  So if you have a phone, you have a lawyer…. that makes a lot of sense.  I put across what my goal was, and the goal was to get to my client base that you can get to me. So the branding and slogan just came together, and it has worked well.  I am very proud of it, and it goes a little more than that Carey, and that is when a client comes and hires me, one of the things I do with all my clients is that I give them my cell phone number.  I think I’m the only lawyer in the country that does that. Now don’t get me wrong, it can be a tremendous task in trying to keep up with all the phone calls and text messages, and it’s not easy. But it helps with communication with the client. While I’m not perfect, I try to do much as I can to give clients access to me so they are able to communicate with me and I can address whatever concerns they have. That’s the story behind the slogan “if you have a phone, you have a lawyer.”

I want to shift gears, in regards to society. In today’s society it seems we are constantly hearing how many African Americans are being targeted by law enforcement. With you being in that particular field (law) from a legal point of view,  and this is on both sides,  for those that feel as though  they are being targeted, to those that actually enforcing  the law. What would you suggest that we do in light of recent events?

That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately it’s a complicated issue. But, I firmly believe that it’s a two part solution, meaning I believe that those that are being targeted have a part to play in resolving this issue or improving this issue. And I also believe that those that are doing the targeting have a part to play in resolving this issue. I will begin with those that are being targeted.  I believe that we particularly as members of minority communities, and I don’t mean just African Americans, I mean all members of minority communities , should first look to do those things, and make those changes in our individual lives that don’t make us prone to unfair targeting, meaning we got to make sure we do our part. My mom would say, “You gotta clean up things at home, first!”  We got to make sure we are not out in areas which are high crime and they are going to target you whether you are doing nothing wrong at all. Don’t get me wrong, we obviously live in communities and some of the communities are in high crime areas, but you’ve got to be careful as you go in and out of the particular neighborhoods. For example, you don’t want to have an open container or smell like you just smoked a whole bunch of weed, because that’s going to give them more reason to stop you and clearly impede your liberties.

We’ve got to do things where we are making sure we are being productive members of society, and doing things that is not going to give them the reason or the suspicion to stop us or to target us. Because when that happens, far too often members of our community get the short end of the stick.  Meaning you take a situation with an officer that is not trained properly or simply scared, and encounters someone who they don’t if you will, look at that person as having civil liberties, looking at them less than they should, then  bad things can happen . And I don’t know how many times as you indicated in your question, how many times have we looked on television, or on video, or looked on our phone and saw some young African American person getting shot to death over a traffic stop? When did the sentence for speeding become death? That’s a problem! And the reality of it all is that just as those are being targeted has a part to play and need to make sure they are doing the right things, not involving ourselves in activities that we shouldn’t.

I believe that those who are targeting, particularly law enforcement have to have more sensitivity to our community and not just police us, but also get involved in those communities.  So we don’t see minorities as just “them” or “us against them.”  But that these are members that I have sworn to protect and to serve. So when you have more “community policing” as opposed to just “policing” I think that going to help to bridge the gap between those who are targeting and those that are being targeted. And if you would Carey, I would point out a program that is hear in Charlotte which I am in involved in and clearly support and congratulate the efforts of Shaun Corbett, and that program is “Cops & Barbers” and Shaun has made tremendous effort and strides of bridging the gap between law enforcement and members of our community.  Where he has had forums and people get to sit down and talk with cops, rub shoulders with them, voice their opinions,. And I think that when we focus on efforts such as this, the whole thing of “us against them” tends to be diminished, because you then see the people that you are policing as humans. That these folks have families, they have husbands and wives and sons, and daughters, mothers and fathers. And so you tend to humanize the people and the community, so it’s not just about “I fear you “and “I have authority over you, so I’m going to do whatever.” It’s more so “how can I help you? How can I be of service to you?” and still enforce the law. And I’m not advocating that law enforcement to take a blind eye to crime, by no means am I doing that.  There has to be a level of deference and a level of humanity and humility while they are executing their duties as law enforcement officers.  Because you’re not just supposed to police, you’re supposed to also protect and serve.

I believe if we focus on this, both from a community standpoint and a law enforcement standpoint that we will make tremendous strides and a lot of these tragedies that we see in our communities regularly, I think they will be less frequent than they are. That’s my hope, and to a certain extent, my prayer.

I want to throw this question at you, which is lighter in its intent. What would be one thing that you would share with our readers that is a little known fact about William H Harding?

(Laughing) Wow, hmm.. well at least for most folk here in Charlotte, before I relocated here to Charlotte, I lived in West Virginia, went to undergrad at Marshall University before going to law school at West Virginia University School of Law. One of the things that allowed me, or was a vehicle to my higher education and receiving a law degree  was  my love of music, particularly I used to DJ. And it’s an interesting story of how that came about, but I learned, taught myself how to DJ. Originally I managed a club a nightclub in Huntington West Virginia, and when the DJ that I hired, sometime would come late or not do the job that folks deserved, it became aggravating. And as the manager of the club, I had the responsibility of hiring and firing people, so it’s hard to fire someone when you don’t have a replacement. I felt it wasn’t fair to folks that if the DJ isn’t good that your experience was bad. So I literally taught myself how to DJ.  Did for many years and ended up buying the club, my love of music really was behind all that as far as deejaying. I did it for many years until it came a time in which I didn’t have the time to do it because of my law practice and my obligation to my clients. It’s kind of difficult to stay up until 2-3 in the morning then turn around and be in court at 9 am. So I had to depart from that, but literally deejaying put me through undergrad, allowed me to get through undergrad as well as law school and support my family for many years. And to this day I respect and admire what a DJ does, and I often credit my ability to talk on a microphone to hundreds, sometimes thousands of people when I deejayed. How I could just get on the mic and do my thing to, if you will, “rock the crowd” that it was nothing when I went into a courtroom and there was twelve jurors. I was used to public speaking all the time, but this was in a different forum. So I give credit to that often, because it kind of got my feet wet to the power of communication. And now I just do it a little differently, I do it in a courtroom, across the country. Most folk don’t know that…but thanks to that question, the cat’s out the bag!

How has the transition from West Virginia to Charlotte been for you and your family?

Amazing ! I moved here in 2007 and since then, I’ve moved my mother here, my brother relocated here to Charlotte, him and his family.  My oldest son moved to Charlotte and has since graduated from North Carolina Central. My sister relocated to Charlotte, and four lovely years ago I got married in Charlotte to my wife Keisha, and we all love Charlotte! It’s been very good to us, and I’m grateful to be a Charlottean. I only wish I would have gotten here sooner, but I guess God had His time in all of this and while I would have liked to have gotten here sooner, God took a different approach to it. I’m really grateful to be here, and I tell anybody that listens that Charlotte is America’s best kept secret! If I have my way, I’m going to make sure people know about it.

Thank you for your time, energy and openness in regards to your career and the things that go on here in Charlotte that we as individuals in this community are charged to do.

Any closing words?

First and foremost, thank you Mr. Digsby for the opportunity to communicate with your readers and through your work. And I wanted to say that is a sincere honor to have the opportunity to be on this platform, I don’t say that lightly. I would also say that I am the eternal optimist, and I believe that this city has so much promise, and I would just encourage everyone to do what you can, even if it’s just a little bit. That’s to check on a neighbor or to encourage a young person to stay in school or work hard or whatever it may be. I would encourage that we all get involved in our community. When we do that, our future is going to be amazing!



Photos by Demetrai J and Silvio Suarez