On July 29, former North Carolina Industrial Commission Chairman J.
Howard Bunn, Jr., 64, died from complications related to diabetes while a
patient at North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill. He twice served as
chairman of the N.C. state agency
that adjudicates workers’ compensation claims; tort
claims against the state; and claims by the families of law enforcement
officers, fire fighters, and rescue squad workers.
Chairman J. Howard Bunn, Jr. will be remembered for the important contributions
he made to the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System,” says Industrial
Commission Chairman Buck Lattimore. “During the rewrite of the workers’
compensation law in l994, it was Chairman Bunn who worked tirelessly with
representatives of business and labor to craft changes insuring that the system
was fair to workers and employers alike.
was also one of the early advocates of utilizing mediation in the workers'
compensation process—a move that has helped speed the system. And as one fully
familiar with the intricacies of workers' compensation, he understood the
underlying claim problems and took steps to solve them.
Mr. Lattimore adds, “Howard and Kay Seawell were married on July 20th, just days before his death. His dream of companionship for his latter years was cut short. But our memories of a friend, an authority on the complexities of workers’ compensation and one who made his mark on the workers’ compensation system in our state will last for years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kay and the family.”
The son of Jackson Howard Bunn, Sr. and the former Grace McLeod, Mr. Bunn
was born on October 18, 1937 in Zebulon. He earned a B.S. degree from Wake
Forest University in 1959 and a J.D. degree from the Wake Forest School of Law
Mr. Bunn practiced law in Charlotte for seven years. In 1970, when
Governor Bob Scott appointed him to serve as chairman of the North Carolina
Industrial Commission, Mr. Bunn was partner in the law firm of Ervin, Curtis,
Bunn, Burroughs and Kornfeld.
Howard Bunn served as chairman of the Industrial Commission until 1974,
when the U.S. Secretary of Labor appointed him as executive director of the
Interdepartmental Workers’ Compensation Task Force. He moved to Chicago to
serve as vice president of the National Association of Independent Insurers from
1977 to 1986, and he subsequently worked as a Chicago-based workers’
compensation consultant from 1986 to 1993. Mr. Bunn became nationally recognized
expert on workers’ compensation issues.
In September 1993, Governor Jim Hunt appointed Howard Bunn to a second
term as chairman of the Industrial Commission. Mr. Bunn retired in 1999.
Mr. Bunn was an active member of the Southern Association of Workers’
Compensation Administrators and the International Association of Industrial
Accident Boards and Commissions. In 1987, he received the IAIABC’s
President’s Award presented each year to an active or associate member who has
not only assumed significant responsibility in the IAIABC, but has distinguished
himself or herself in their own work place with the quality of his or her
efforts on behalf of workers’ compensation administration.
Howard Bunn was co-founder of the National Symposium on Workers’
Compensation—the oldest, continuous symposium on workers’ compensation in
the United States. He was a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ad Hoc
National Business Council on Injury Compensation (and principal author of the
workers’ compensation section of the report of this Council); a member of the
National Conference of State Legislators’ Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts on
Workers’ Compensation; and a member of the National Association of Insurance
Mr. Bunn was a member of the American Bar Association and a speaker or
program participant at various sections on workers’ compensation at annual
meetings or special program locations.
He is survived by Mrs. Bunn, the former Kay Wiggs Seawell; a daughter, Laura Bunn Olson,
and her husband, Erik, of Austin, Texas; two sons, Jackson Howard Bunn, III and
his wife, Trina, of Atlanta, Georgia, and Brian McLeod Bunn of Chicago,
Illinois; three stepchildren; and six grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to
either the American Diabetes Association, 434 Fayetteville Street Mall, Raleigh,
NC 27601, or the Zebulon Baptist Church Building Fund, Post Office Box 366,
Zebulon, NC 27597.