Allen Holt Gwyn

September 11, 1949September 18, 2017

Allen Holt Gwyn, civic leader and nationally renowned construction lawyer, arbitrator and mediator passed away Monday, September 18, 2017. Born on September 11, 1949, Holt grew up in Winston-Salem in a family proud of its long legacy as native North Carolinians for many generations.

Holt was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Upon graduating from law school he moved to Greensboro and joined the office of the United States Attorney, Middle District of North Carolina, where as an Assistant U.S. Attorney he prosecuted white collar fraud and environmental violations, and represented U.S. agencies in civil disputes. After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office, Holt joined the law firm of Falk, Carruthers & Roth, PA in Greensboro as a civil litigation partner. It was there that he began developing his expertise in construction law. Some years later, he became a partner in the law firm of Patton Boggs, working in its Greensboro office. In 1999, Holt and his long time law partners Richard Conner and Jim Schenck founded the construction law firm of Conner Gwyn Schenck PLLC, with offices in Raleigh and in Greensboro.

In his professional life, Holt was a leader and a builder. When he participated in a civic or professional organization he rose in the leadership, helped to build the organization and often left it in better shape than it was before. He was a man of honor and integrity. Holt was insightful and had a keen intellect. Always willing to help others, he was a remarkable mentor to those seeking direction as to how to succeed in a legal career. Holt touched many lives in a positive way. His impact on the construction law bar has been invaluable.

Holt liked to say that his job was placing himself between his clients and trouble and protecting them as best he could. He excelled in that regard. He thought strategically and solved problems creatively. If a trial was required, Holt was an experienced first chair lawyer and he was always prepared at trial. Holt Gwyn was generally considered one of the finest construction litigation attorneys in the state. He was admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of North Carolina, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. Holt’s strong work ethic was evident from the time he was young. While growing up in Winston-Salem, he worked summers on his family farms where he learned how things were built. Holt used to say that when he went into private law practice, the contractors who were clients of the firm began seeking him out because he knew the difference between a top plate and a joist.

Holt was a member of the American Bar Association, the North Carolina Bar Association and the Greensboro Bar Association. He was a highly regarded continuing legal education presenter for the N.C. Bar Association who never hesitated to share his wealth of knowledge with other members of the bar.

Holt was often called upon to serve as a mediator and arbitrator in commercial disputes – a measure of the respect that he earned from his peers. He was a member of a select panel of arbitrators formed by the American Arbitration Association to hear large and complex construction cases, and was a member of the American Arbitration Association’s Carolinas panel of mediators. Holt was selected as a Fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators, and as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London, UK. He was a North Carolina Superior Court certified mediator, and charter member of the N.C. Academy of Superior Court Mediators. Holt served as a mediator and as a special master in the federal district courts within North Carolina.

He gave back to the legal profession and was recognized for his contributions. Holt was elected in 1999 as Chair of the American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law, the nation’s premiere construction law group, with over 6,000 members. He was the first North Carolina lawyer to Chair that organization. Closer to home, in 2014, he was selected by North Carolina lawyers as Chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Construction Law Section. Holt was selected as a Fellow in the American College of Construction Lawyers where he served on its board and as its president

His contributions to the profession continued with his writing and teaching. Holt was co-editor of the treatise entitled North Carolina Construction Law, published and updated, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American College of Construction Lawyers, co-editor of the College of Commercial Arbitrators Guide to Best Practices in Commercial Arbitrations, and co-editor of Construction Damages and Remedies, an ABA publication. He authored numerous papers, articles, and publications on construction law topics in addition and frequently lectured to construction industry trade groups and bar associations.

Holt deeply valued the many close and life-long friendships that were forged with the special and talented people that he met and worked with in his professional endeavors.

He was a renaissance man, who had many interests and many talents. It seemed to those who knew him best that he kept current with everything, be it news of the day, developments in the field of law, sports, music, literature or the latest trends in art. He and his brothers built a log house near Fancy Gap, Virginia along the Blue Ridge Parkway that he shared with his family. He was well travelled and well read. He liked to have a good time and he knew how to throw a party. When he wasn’t working, Holt could often be seen on the golf course at Greensboro Country Club, where he was a member and served on its Board, or at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington. Holt was an accomplished boat skipper often sailing with his many friends.

Holt was a talented musician and singer. During high school he was a member of the Winston-Salem Symphony where he played the violin. Soon after, however, he discovered his passion in singing and playing the guitar. During an open mike night in 1977, Holt met another attorney musician, David Niblock of Winston Salem. Niblock and Gwyn performed gigs in their spare time at local venues and events. They opened shows for American Blues rocker Delbert McClinton and for Sea Level, an offshoot of the Allman Brothers Band. More recently they could be heard playing at local eateries and performing as a part of a Greensboro City sponsored outdoor concert series. He could play a mean guitar while belting out Don McLean’s song, American Pie (the full eight and half minute version!), while enthusiastically encouraging his audience to join in on the chorus.

He gave generously of his time and talents to many community and civic organizations and agencies. Holt followed his love and passion for music into the arts community in Greensboro where he served on the Boards of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, the Eastern Music Festival, Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art and the Cultural Arts Council of Greensboro.

As an active member of the local community, Holt was a charter member of the Board of Directors of Downtown Greensboro, Inc., served as a member of the Board of the Greensboro Area Chamber of Commerce, as president of Preservation Greensboro Incorporated, and as Chair of the Guilford County Advisory Board for Environmental Quality. He also served as a member of the Guilford County Volunteers to the Court First Offender Program. At the state level Holt served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the John Motley Morehead Memorial Commission and as a charter member of the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Holt met Beth Boulton in late 2000. Holt and Beth were married on November 23, 2002. In marriage, they forged a strong and loving partnership and spent many happy years together, traveling and enjoying their extended family and a host of friends.

Holt was predeceased by his parents Allen H. Gwyn, Sr. and Susanna Ray Gwyn, and by his wife, Margaret Ann “Peggy” Wilkes, who died in 1998. Surviving members of Holt’s family are his wife, Beth Boulton of Greensboro, his brother J. Richard Gwyn and wife, Mary of Annapolis, Maryland, his brother Scott L. Gwyn and wife, Robin of Winston Salem, and his sister S. Revelle Gwyn and her husband, Meyer Dworsky of Huntsville, Alabama, ten nieces and nephews of whom he was very proud, numerous cousins, and his beloved dog, Mamie.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Holt’s memory to Downtown Greenway, 203 South Church Street, Greensboro, NC 27401, Greensboro Symphony, 200 North Davie Street, Suite 301, Greensboro, NC 27401 or Eastern Music Festival, P.O. Box 22026, Greensboro, NC 27420.

A party in celebration of Holt’s life will be held for family and friends, both personal and professional, at the home on Monday, September 25, 2017 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

Online condolences may be made through www.haneslineberryfuneralhomes.


  • Celebration of Life Gathering Monday, September 25, 2017

Allen Holt Gwyn

have a memory or condolence to add?

Sally Lowrance

October 9, 2017

Such a fine gentleman. I was so sad to hear of his passing. As a court reporter, I worked with Holt many times in the past. My condolences to his partners and coworkers, and of course to his family.

Brian Bennett

September 27, 2017

I first met Holt when I was young project manager working on a construction project at UNC - Chapel Hill. He was the lawyer the company hired to handle some change order disputes and I was tasked with assisting him on the claims. I later attended law school and met Holt again through the Forum and became involved in that group. Holt was always willing to offer advice and as my career progressed we were able to work together on some matters in Florida. I will always have fond memories of him; his legacy and the lessons he taught all those who interacted with him will continue on.

A Holt Gwyn

September 26, 2017

Hey Holtsie!!
Well, Joe and I had to get to the right time of day(sunset of course for us..u love both!),right snacks,right music and,most importantly,the right red wine.... to pause and tell you how much we love u!!We hope that you were smiling upon your home at the love shown for you at your life celebration.......RIP...and thanks for all requests given....xoxoxo

Charley Rose

September 26, 2017

I met Allen as a student in my classes at Wake Law. He was always such a friendly person during and after law school. The many things he accomplished in his life are truly wonderful and a tribute to Allen. The law and the world have lost a fine human being.

Mía West

September 25, 2017

I'm so sorry Beth, I'm sending you lots of hugs and love.
I was Holt's hairstylist for years and couldn't believe all the stories and things he has done. He was hard working man but with huge heart and free spirit.
One day I ask him: Holt how did you feel when you saw me the first time for your haircut? He said : what you mean? I said: I'm cover with tattoos and you pretty conservative. (Smile) He looks ok at me with shock face a reply : I love modern art!!!!!! That made me laugh so hard and felt in love with him!! He was a great man ❤

Linda Starr

September 25, 2017

Dearest Beth,

I am so sad about your loss. Holt was such a sweetheart, and he was loved and respected by all who knew him.

Love, Linda Starr

Kim Holleman

September 25, 2017

Beth, I am truly sorry for you and all the people that knew and loved this very special man. Holt was such a kind gentleman. He wrote a dear note when Worth passed. His gentle spirit will always remain. My heart aches for you with the pain of loss. Sending thoughts, prayers and love.

Rebecca Pendergast

September 24, 2017

To the Gwyn family - I was very sorry to hear about the loss of Holt. Please accept my condolences - you all are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Amy Phillips

September 22, 2017

Holt is a true Forum Leader, mentor and friend to all. His kindness, intellect, dedication and camaraderie will be missed. Holt is the epitome of a gentlemen, always ready with a genuine smile, witty remark and sage counsel.

My thoughts and prayers go to Holt's family and his partners at Conner Gwyn Schneck.

W. James Johnson

September 22, 2017

I first met Holt as a young lawyer in a big and interesting construction law case in the mountains of North Carolina. There were a bunch of lawyers involved, and Holt was brought in after the case had been pending for about a year. Of course I knew who he was, Holt was one of the most well known construction lawyers in the state. Holt, as was his style, injected the case with new energy and vigor, and raised the bar on everyone's efforts to find the facts and get things sorted out. His first order of business was to take a 4 day deposition in which he examined a witness over hundreds of pages of plans, leaving literally no stone unturned. This of course had the intended effect of causing most of the parties to rethink their positions in the case, and whether they would hold up, and most made prudent decisions to resolve their issues soon after.

Along the way Holt was gracious enough to take an interest in me, and we became friends.

Holt recruited me to serve as the secretary of the construction section, when he was installed as the chair. If you have every worked on a writing endeavor with Holt, you know and understand his singular attention to detail. He would redline meeting notes until they were just so. It was the way he approached everything, he had high standards, dammit. Holt encouraged busy lawyers who agreed to write a paper on a construction law issue to bring "scholarship" to the table. You know, don't just cite North Carolina law, you should see if there are some decisions from around the country that might bear on the issue. Just spend a little more time on it, and make it better. His commitment to excellance was sometimes exasperating to those of us who tend to slack off from time to time, but we sure would try to follow his lead.

I found out Holt was a guitar picker, and we played together a number of times at various bar events, or when he came to Asheville for work. Holt played with precision (of course) but with soul and style as well. We found common musical ground on old blues and early rock numbers. He could pick up a new tune quickly, whip out some licks, and sing harmony or lead. He also knew when to lay back and let the other guy lead. We had some great jams.

I now understand that I was not the first or last young lawyer that Holt took an interest in, and kept up with. I have talked to literally dozens of lawyers who got the exact same treatment. All enjoyed a genuine and meaningful relationship with Holt. Holt was never too busy for anyone, and he made others feel welcome. This will be one of his lasting legacies.

As I write this I am at the NC/SC Construction Law CLE, where Holt was slotted to speak, of course. I should pay attention to the program, I know, Holt would not want me to miss some important point of law. We probably would have found time to pick a tune, and I am sure we would have had drink or two. Holt, I'll send one out for you this weekend. Rest in peace, man.