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Pearson, born June 28, 1805 at "Richmond Hill" near the town of Cooleemee, graduated from the University of North Carolina (1823), studied law under Leonard Henderson, received his law license (1826), and practiced in Salisbury. Highlights of his distinguished career include the North Carolina House of Commons (1829-1832), North Carolina Superior Court (1836-1849), North Carolina Supreme Court Judge (1849) and Chief Justice (1858-1878). In addition, Pearson established a law school in Mocksville in about 1835, later moving to Richmond Hill in Yadkin County when he inherited land there. Pearson taught at the law school until his sudden death in early 1878. In 1881, lawyers who had studied under Pearson erected a monument at his gravesite in Raleigh inscribed, "His epitaph is written by his own hand in the North Carolina Reports."

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