January 27, 1987
Author: GARY L. WRIGHT, Staff Writer
a prominent lawyer and community leader who worked behind the scenes to
shape Charlotte`s future – died Monday. He was 75.
The Davidson College and Harvard law school graduate practiced corporate
law in Charlotte for about 50 years. At the time of his death he was counsel
to Smith, Helms, Mulliss and Moore – the law firm he helped establish in 1939. Mr. Mulliss was a quiet and reserved man who years ago described the work
of a lawyer as being “the solution of problems.“
He thought of his role in the community much the same way.
Mr. Mulliss devoted much of his energies to making Charlotte a better place to live and during the 1960s was a familiar community leader in his efforts to help the poor.
In 1963, Mr. Mulliss became the first president of the Charlotte Area Fund. He headed the anti-poverty agency for 2 1/2 years. He also served as chairman of the United Appeal and president of United Community Services.
“He didn`t like the limelight,“ said U.S. District Judge James McMillan,
a law partner with Mulliss for 22 years. “He didn`t want any headlines.“
Said law partner Larry Dagenhart: “He was the kind of person who said very little. But when he spoke everyone always listened and almost always followed his advice.“
Gordon Berg, vice president of the Foundation for the Carolinas, said Mr.
Mulliss had “a strong social conscience. He was a man of major influence on
the leadership in this community.“
Mr. Mulliss graduated from Harvard law school in 1936. Three years later,
he and Fred B. Helms established the law firm of Helms and Mulliss. Mr.
Mulliss specialized in general business, corporation, banking and securities
laws. He remained a partner in the law firm until 1983, when he became a
counsel to the firm.
“He had the capacity of getting things done,“ Helms said. “He was one of the most efficient and effective workers I`ve ever known. He got things done
He was a community, civic and religious as well as a professional leader.“
McMillan described Mr. Mulliss as “a natural born manager“ and “a force
of stability in the law firm.“
“He was a good mentor for a young lawyer like me,“ McMillan said.
Mr. Mulliss`s contributions to community affairs were varied.
He was president of Charlotte`s YMCA, a Davidson College board of trustees
member, a member of Queens College`s advisory board and a Salvation Army board member.
Mr. Mulliss also was a deeply religious man.
“Religion is the most important aspect of life,“ he told an Observer
reporter in 1962. “Everything else needs to fit against that framework.“
Mr. Mulliss was an elder of Myers Park Presbyterian Church, president of
the board of trustees of the Presbyterian Foundation Inc. and a member of the council of the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina. He also was president of the YMCA in Charlotte.
Mr. Mulliss`s funeral will be at 11 a.m. today at Myers Park Presbyterian
Church. Entombment will be at Forest Lawn Mausoleum.
Mr. Mulliss is survived by his wife, Betty Greene Mulliss, and a sister,
Mrs. Julia Mulliss Wyer of Martinsburg, W.Va.
Memorials may be made to Davidson College and Myers Park Presbyterian
Charlotte lawyer William Mulliss misspelled his last name.