Willard James Moody, Sr., a well-regarded attorney and former state legislator who served as a longtime Designated Legal Counsel (DLC) for the United Transportation Union (UTU) and advocated on behalf of railroad workers in the court of law throughout his life, passed away March 27. He was 94.
“Willard devoted his professional life to securing and strengthening the FELA (and) seeking justice for thousands of injured railroad workers over a career that spanned seven decades,” said James A. Stem, retired SMART Transportation Division/UTU national legislative director and executive director of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys. “We all stand on his shoulders.”
Born June 16, 1924, Moody was a U.S. Army veteran and served in World War II in Europe. Upon his return home, he attended college, then law school, before founding what is now the Moody Law Firm in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Moody turned his attention to politics after establishing his practice and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, serving there from 1956 to 1967, then in the Virginia Senate from 1968 until 1984. He never lost an election.
In addition to serving as a DLC, Moody donated to the UTU’s political action committee and later founded the Railroad Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth. His legal career culminated with his induction into the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame in April 2014.
Moody is survived by his wife of 71 years, Betty Covert Moody; daughter, Sharon Edwards, and her husband, Stephen; two sons, Willard “Will” Moody, Jr., who continues his father’s legacy as a current SMART TD DLC, and his wife, Courtney; and Paul Moody and his wife, Sarah; three sisters, Bertha Foster, Sue Bell and Mary Ellen Romanczyk; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and a host of extended family and friends.
Visitation will be 3 to 5:30 p.m. March 31 at Sturtevant Funeral Home, Portsmouth Boulevard Chapel, 5201 Portsmouth Blvd., Portsmouth, VA 23701. A funeral service will be 11 a.m. Monday, April 1, 2019, at Green Acres Presbyterian Church, 3135 Hanley Ave., Portsmouth, VA 23703, by the Rev. Elizabeth Hilkerbaumer. Burial will follow in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens. Following the burial, a reception will take place at the home of Will and Courtney Moody, 4201 Manchester Road, Portsmouth, Virginia.
Josephine Mae Catlette Stem, 106, the mother of retired former National Legislative Director James Stem, died April 27. Stem said his mother was at peace and not in pain at the time of her death.
Mrs. Stem was born Oct. 18, 1908, in the Brassfield Parish of Granville County, North Carolina. After graduating from Wilton High School, she earned her teaching degree from East Carolina Teachers College. Following the Great Depression, she taught third grade students for eight years at Wilton School. She married James Stem Sr. in 1944.
She was a charter member of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., and a teacher in the four-year-olds’ Sunday School program there for 40 years. In the 1960s, she taught kindergarten at Temple Baptist Church Day School. She joined the First Baptist Church in Raleigh in 1994, where she was an active participant in the Livingston Johnson Bible Class. After moving to Winston-Salem in 2001, Mrs. Stem was warmly embraced by the members of West Side Baptist Church and First Baptist Church.
Throughout her life she was devoted to her family and friends. She enjoyed watching Atlanta Braves baseball games and University of North Carolina Tar Heels basketball games. She was an active member of the Auxiliary of the UTU until entering a retirement home in 2001.
She was preceded in death by her husband, James Stem Sr.; her brothers, James L. Catlette and Garland L. Catlette and his wife, Carol; her sister, Mary Kathleen Catlette Nethery and her husband Marion; her granddaughter, Dr. Michelle Stem Cook; and her nephew and niece, James L. Catlette Jr. and Elaine Catlette Key.
Surviving her are her two children, Mary Nell Stem Harris and her husband Arnett, and James A. Stem, Jr. and his wife Bonnie, four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and many other beloved family members and friends.
A memorial service will be conducted at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 2, led by Dr. Roger Nix in the sanctuary at First Baptist Church in Raleigh. After the service, the family will receive friends and loved ones in the church parlor.
Memorials may be made to First Baptist Church, 99 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27603, to First Baptist Church Television Ministry, 501 W. Fifth St., Winston-Salem, N.C. 27101, to Hospice Care Center, 101 Hospice Ln., Winston-Salem, NC 27103, or to a favorite charity of one’s choice.