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Our founder – Billy Brown “BB” Olive – led a life most people can only dream of.
His long list of personal and professional honors include two Bronze Stars, the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, North Carolina’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine, Duke Forest’s Clarence F. Korstian award and Duke University’s School of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus award. He was also the first and only person to receive the Triangle Intellectual Property Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Beyond these distinctions, he was a beloved husband and cherished father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who filled his 93 years with life and love. In the process, he left a treasured legacy of achievements and memories for his family, friends and colleagues.
From Fuquay Springs to the Purple Heart
Mr. Olive was born in Fuquay Springs, NC on November 6, 1921, to B. Ray Olive and Virginia Wood Olive. He passed away in Durham, NC on December 4, 2014.
His leadership was evident even in his early years. He attended Hope Valley elementary and high school, where he led a protest strike that was commemorated in one of his teacher’s memoirs. He enrolled in Duke University’s School of Engineering, but World War II intervened and he entered the Army. After studying and teaching at the War College, he fought in France and Germany with the 95th Infantry as part of what became known as the “Iron Men of Metz.” His service and battle wounds earned a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and other honors from his country, as well as a knighthood (Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur) from the French government for his bravery and service in helping to liberate Metz from Nazi occupation.
After the war and recovery from his injuries, he returned to Duke to complete his engineering degree. He then joined Westinghouse’s International Division in New York. While working fulltime, he attended and graduated from St. John’s Law School. He also met and married Denyse Edwards, with whom he had three children.
Pioneer in Intellectual Property
Mr. Olive moved back to North Carolina to become Fieldcrest Mills’ first patent attorney. In 1957, he founded in Durham the firm that now is Olive & Olive. It was the first private intellectual property firm in the Triangle and one of the first in North Carolina.
The firm thrived. Mr. Olive became a skilled and innovative protector of inventions including peanut harvesters, tobacco barns, knitting machines, sophisticated medical equipment, lasers, electronics and computer technology. He made it a priority to keep up with the rapid pace of developments in these diverse fields. To do this, Mr. Olive established a vast scientific library at the firm and read numerous journals. He also took courses at local colleges and universities—not to earn a degree, but simply to increase the depth of his knowledge in areas of interest to the firm’s clients.
That commitment to excellence and continuing education continues in Olive & Olive today.
Family, Diversity, Equality
No matter how busy, Mr. Olive always made time for his family. He worked to instill in his children academic curiosity, a love both of science and of the liberal arts, and attention to detail. After his wife’s death in 1967, he was both mom and dad to his three teenagers, shepherding them through their driving years and into college. He and his family were blessed when he found love again with Eve Evans, an architect, and eurythmist, to whom he had been happily married for over four decades at the time of his death.
Throughout this time, his intellectual property practice continued to grow. He had clients and colleagues around the world and on every continent except Antarctica. His oldest daughter joined the firm after graduating from Duke Law School, ultimately becoming his partner and the other Olive in “Olive & Olive.” That made the firm the first intellectual property firm in the state to have a female partner.
A few years later, Olive & Olive also became the first in the state to be racially integrated. Mr. Olive’s belief—and that of his firm—that all persons are created equal was genuine and practiced daily. That legacy continues today at Olive & Olive.
Making a Difference in People’s Lives
Outside of the law, Mr. Olive gave back to his community in many ways. Among his notable contributions:
Civic Responsibility Is Ongoing
Mr. Olive may be gone, but he has not been forgotten. His work lives on at Olive & Olive. The firm continues to espouse and practice the values that were the bedrock of its founder’s life.
In particular, Olive & Olive helped launch Urban Ministries of Durham in 1983 and has been privileged to invest its time, efforts and energy to the shelter ever since.
Mr. Olive Tells His Story
On the occasion of his 50th year of practicing law, Mr. Olive looked back on his remarkable half-century. Read the Essay by B. B. Olive About His Life and Practice as a Patent Attorney here.