By Sherrie Norris
As news began to circulate on Tuesday of the death of beloved Judge Alexander Banner Lyerly, tributes started pouring in on social media and through other media outlets across the High Country and all of Western North Carolina.
The first official tribute was released as a proclamation by the Town of Banner Elk in memory of its native son, and where his wife, Brenda Lyerly, serves as long-time mayor. The resolution, highlighting some of Judge Lyerly’s contributions to the area, also requested that flags locally be flown at half-mast in his memory and honor.
From 1980 when elected as judge in North Carolina’s 24th Judicial District, until his retirement in 2014 as Chief District Judge, Lyerly was known and respected by not only his colleagues within the judicial system, but also by many who had to face him inside the courtroom. He was known for numerous special traits as a judge and a friend, but all who knew him could attest to the fact that he was always fair and honest and treated others with dignity and respect.
Among countless accolades throughout his career, Lyerly received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine upon his retirement in 2014; he was named to the Avery County Hall of Fame in 2017. A portrait of Lylery, hanging in the Avery County Courthouse in Newland since 2018, will serve as a reminder of one who made a lasting impact upon the High Country which he served and loved.
Judge Lyerly was a member of both the North Carolina and Texas State Bars, the American Bar Association, and previously the International Bar Association; the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Judicature Society and The American Judges Association. In his early days, he was one of the first magistrates in NC certified as a specialist in juvenile law. In one of many roles across the state, Lyerly served on the NC Judicial Standards Committee and on numerous boards for causes near and dear to his heart, namely the Crossnore Home for Children. And with a deep love for his family’s strong heritage, Lyerly was actively involved with The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, an event that he greatly anticipated from year to year.
Among those mourning the loss of Lyerly includes Theresa L. King of Newland. “I am so grateful to have had this man as my boss for 20 years and more importantly, my dear friend for 38 years. His time and dedication to the State of North Carolina, and the people of Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey Counties, will never be forgotten. He touched so many lives.”
King spoke of the guidance and advice Lyerly bestowed upon her, and expressed her gratitude for Lyerly being such a wonderful friend and mentor. “It was my privilege to know him and work for him.”
Jesse Pope, President and Executive Director at Grandfather Mountain, had this to say, “My thoughts and prayers go out to Brenda Lyerly for the loss of her husband, Judge Lyerly. He was such an incredibly kind soul that did so much for so many. My heart aches losing such a wonderful person in our mountain community.” Pope also expressed his admiration for Lyerly’s wife, Brenda, for her “loyalty and love for Alec that was always so apparent.”
Recently retired Watauga County Clerk of Court, Diane Cornett Deal, shared, “I could not have had a better friend through the years than Judge Alex Lyerly. I was so blessed to have had the privilege of working with him. He will be missed.”
As a young student at Mayland Technical Institute in the late 1970s, I, Sherrie (Pritchard) Norris, came to know “Alec” Lyerly while he served as an instructor in the Criminal Justice program — as I explored career interests and opportunities. With little direction in life and no idea what I really wanted to do at the time, Lyerly took a special interest in me and encouraged me to be my best at whatever path I chose to take. He instilled in me a confidence that I lacked — and a belief that I really could do whatever I set my mind to do. Later, as I worked at Cannon Memorial Hospital in his hometown of Banner Elk, I saw him frequently, and that encouragement never wavered. In fact, he offered to be my job reference as I moved forward through the years. What better “seal of approval” could I have asked for? I will forever love “Alec” Lyerly and his wife, Brenda, and will always be grateful for their confidence in me through the years. It is my sincere hope that he knew just how much he meant to me and to so many others – on and off the bench.”
The obituary and funeral services for Alexander Lyerly are incomplete at this time and will be announced by Austin and Barnes Funeral Home and Crematory in Boone.