Judge Robert "Bob" Leon Farmer
July 23, 1933 – November 17, 2020
Judge Robert L. (Bob) Farmer passed away peacefully on the morning of November 17, 2020. He was born on the family farm in Johnston County on July 23, 1933. Bob often reminisced about his early years on the farm running barefoot through the freshly plowed fields and playing with Jim, his pet pig.
Bob graduated from public school in Smithfield and later received his undergraduate from the University of North Carolina in 1955. After serving in the U.S. Army for 2 years he returned to UNC where he received his law degree. It was in Chapel Hill where he met Martha Lassiter. He first saw her by the Old Well and said she was “the prettiest girl on campus.” Bob asked her on a date and she said yes! He couldn’t believe it and to this day nobody else can either.
Bob married Martha in 1959 and they settled in Raleigh where he practiced law for 17 years. He served as president of the Raleigh Jaycees and was the first president of the Raleigh Jaycee Zoological Foundation which created and promoted the idea for a State Zoo for North Carolina. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1970, 1972, 1974, and 1976. There he served as Chairman of the House Judiciary III Committee, House Finance Committee, House Manufacturers & Labor Committee and was a member of the Advisory Budget Commission. While in the General Assembly he sponsored legislation for physical education in grades K-5, legislation for Ethics Laws for the Legislature, legislation for electronic voting in the Legislature and legislation to merge the Raleigh and Wake County Schools. After the merger he was asked by the old two boards to serve as its first attorney and did so until he became a Superior Court Judge.
Appointed by Governor James B. Hunt, Bob served as a Resident Superior Court Judge from December,1977 to January, 1999. His last 10 years on the bench he was the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge in Wake County. He was a past president of the N. C. Conference of Superior Court Judges and a delegate to the American Bar Association annual convention for 4 years. As an active board member of the nonprofit Carolina Correctional Services Inc., he helped oversee the design and implementation of several innovative programs including drug treatment courts. Today the Judge Robert Farmer Fellowships are awarded to Campbell Law students with demonstrated financial need and a calling for public service.
Bob was honored by the Wake County Bar Association with the Joseph Branch Professionalism Award. The Award recognizes an attorney known for his integrity and public service and who exemplifies high professionalism in the practice of law.
After retirement from the bench, Bob served as a certified mediator and arbitrator. He also served as Chairman of the North Carolina State Ethics Commission since it’s creation on January 1, 2007.
In November, 2013 Bob was made an Ambassador of The Order of The Long Leaf Pine Society. North Carolina’s governors highest honor recognizes persons who have made significant contributions to the state through exemplary service. His old friend Governor Hunt surprised him with the honor.
At the time of his death he had been a member of Hayes Barton United Methodist Church for over 50 years. He served as Chairman of its Board of Trustees for 8 years, member of its Official Board for 12 years, taught Sunday school for over 10 years and was a member of its Endowment Committee for many years. Bob was also a long-standing, proud member of the Raleigh Kiwanis Club.
Bob loved to travel with his loving wife and family. It was obvious that he took even more joy in planning their travels than the trip itself. He and Martha enjoyed wonderful trips to Europe as well as scenic train rides across the Canadian wilderness. Closer to home, Bob relished family beach trips to Emerald Isle and beautiful Sunset Beach.
Bob played basketball, golf and semi-pro baseball for the Smithfield Leafs. As a longtime member of The Rams Club he passionately rooted for Carolina football and basketball but never Dook. Go Heels!
Bob was a man of principle and a sharp wit. He loved the law, The Old North State and telling a good story. Above all he cherished his family and he will be missed every day.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Martha Lassiter Farmer, his three children, Joseph Robert Farmer and wife Traci Lorraine Farmer, James Thomas Farmer and wife Preeti Farmer, and Caroline Marie Farmer. Bob was endearingly known as “Papa” by his eight grandchildren, Kenan and Audrey Farmer, Jackson and Ava Farmer, Cate and Brendan Belch and Diya and Nikita Kumar.
A private service will be held in Smithfield.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Hayes Barton United Methodist Church.
Arrangements by Brown-Wynne, 300 Saint Mary's Street, Raleigh.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Judge Robert "Bob" Leon Farmer
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November 24, 2020
I was for many years one of his courtroom Deputy Clerks in Superior Civil Court in Wake County. To say it was an honor is an understatement. As a single mother with two young boys I learned so much from him about the legal system, life, family, grace and humility. I am forever grateful for all he taught me and the patience he showed me each and every day. My professional success is a tribute to him. Thank you Judge Farmer for being not only a friend but a mentor. RIP your Honor!
November 22, 2020
Bob was a friend, fellow Jaycee, and the type of judge who served
all citizens very well. He made his
mark in many endeavors and will
be missed. I am grateful for having
the privilege of knowing him. May
the Good Lord comfort his family.
November 20, 2020
To me, he will always be “the judge.” Perhaps, it’s because my first impressions came from Jim telling me that his dad wore judicial robes around the home and that his dad would call meal to order by hammering his gavel on the dining table. I was a little gullible. I didn’t completely believe everything Jim said but I was still terrified to meet the judge. I wasn’t sure if I should curtsy or throw myself on the mercy of the court. Those really were the only two options I could come up with. Then, I met him. He was a true gentleman. Through the years, I watched him be playful with his grandchildren, generous with his loved ones and solid with his ethics. The only thing I was still too scared to do was to tell him that I cared about him. I hope he can read this and that he knows that he had my love and respect from day one. His influence will continue to echo in the lives of all who had the privilege of knowing him.
November 20, 2020
Joe and Caroline and family,
I just saw this posted and wanted to tell you how sorry I am about your father's passing. Other than y'all are special to us, I didn't realize until I read his obituary what other intersections we had. I didn't know that he had sponsored the legislation for electronic voting. My 2nd job in the House of Representatives was running the voting equipment and I held that for10 years. I also didn't realize that he sponsored the legislation merging the Raleigh City and Wake County School systems. As you know, Momma sat on the last City and 1st merged Wake County boards so she got to know him as the attorney as well. I can imagine the reunion!
Much love to you all.
November 19, 2020
Dear Martha,Joe,Jim, & Caroline Farmer,
My deepest sorrow for your loss. Judge Bob Farmer, was a very special person all around. He was a great Judge and so very personable to everyone he met. Never put on airs or let ego into his being. I remember when he retired, He was even ask to rewrite the “ Ethics “ for law and attorneys , which he did . It was in the news and we all were so proud. He and all of you made my daughter,Traci, (Joes wife),feel loved and welcome to your entire family & circle of friends. Their union has been blessed by Father God, and your family touched by His Angels.
HE will continue His Presence in your life as you go through the stages of grief and loving memories will be abound . I will continue my prayers for you and all your family, & wives and precious grandchildren.