New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee

B. B. Olive: A life well-lived; a man well-loved

November 6, 1921 – December 4, 2014

Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, recipient of North Carolina's Order of the Long Leaf Pine, first and only awardee of the Triangle Intellectual Property Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, recipient of Duke Forest's Clarence F. Korstian award and Duke University's School of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus award, beloved husband, and cherished father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Billy Brown Olive filled his 93 years with life and love, and leaves a treasured legacy of achievements and memories for his family, friends, and colleagues.

Mr. Olive was born in Fuquay Springs, North Carolina on November 6, 1921, to B. Ray Olive and Virginia Wood Olive. He passed away in Durham, North Carolina on December 4, 2014.

He enjoyed Hope Valley elementary and high school (a protest strike he led is featured in his music teacher's memoirs), then enrolled in Duke University's School of Engineering. World War II intervened and he entered the Army, first studying and teaching at the War College and then fighting in France and Germany with the 95th Infantry as part of what became known as the "Iron Men of Metz." Mr. Olive's service and his battle wounds earned a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and other honors from the U.S., and 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, where he completed his engineering degree. He then joined Westinghouse's International Division, in New York. While working fulltime, he also attended and graduated from St. John's Law School, and met and married Denyse Edwards, with whom he had three children.

Mr. Olive moved back to North Carolina to become Fieldcrest Mills' first patent attorney and then, in 1957, returned to Durham and founded the firm that now is Olive & Olive—the first private intellectual property firm in the Triangle and one of the first in North Carolina. The firm thrived as he protected inventions ranging from peanut harvesters and tobacco barns to knitting machines, sophisticated medical equipment, lasers, electronics, and computer technology.

No matter how busy, he always made time for his family, and 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, with clients and colleagues around the world, 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, it also became the first in the state to be racially integrated. His belief that all persons are created equal was genuine, and practiced daily.

Active in the community, Mr. Olive served as president of Duke's engineering alumni; taught at the engineering school; wrote Duke's first patent policy; co-founded the Triangle Land Conservancy (a bench in the forest [Johnston Mill Nature Preserve on Mt. Sinai Road in Orange County] was later dedicated in his honor); founded the North Carolina Bar Association's intellectual property law committee; fought to integrate the NC Bar Association; mobilized forces to successfully protect Duke Forest and New Hope Creek from commercial exploitation; worked for preservation of Durham's black Crest Street community when construction of NC-147 threatened to destroy that historic neighborhood; and fought to ensure that environmental factors were not overlooked in the State's road planning work. He also served on the vestry of St. Philip's Episcopal Church. He and the firm continued his emphasis on civic responsibility, including support of Durham's community soup kitchen and homeless shelter, Urban Ministries of Durham, both as founding supporters in 1983 and throughout the years since that time.

Mr. Olive is survived by his wife of 43 years, Helen Eve Olive; his three children and their spouses, Susan Freya Olive (Tony Rall) of Durham, Jennifer Olive Loiseau (Gerard Loiseau) of Charlotte, and Bruce B. Olive (Kathryn Olive) of Durham; seven wonderful and talented grandchildren: Lily and Eli Olive; Erin, Park, and Ashley Rall; and Rémi (Kelsi) and Justin Loiseau; two great-grandchildren, Liam and Eli Loiseau; two sisters, Charlotte Hallberg (Russ) of Greensboro and Patsy Olive Payne of Matthews; sisters-in-law Martha Olive of Durham, Mary Edwards of England, and Robin Lawton (Keith) of Portland, Oregon; brother-in-law John Whitley (Vicky) of La Jolla, California; and a host of other friends and relatives in North Carolina and around the world. He was predeceased by his sister Betsy and brothers John and Julian.

A memorial service will be held in St. Philip's Episcopal Church at 2 p.m. on Thursday, December 11. The family will receive friends following the service in the parish hall.

Memorial contributions would be welcomed by Urban Ministries of Durham, or the Triangle Land Conservancy.

Lowe Funeral Home & Crematory, Inc. is assisting the family.

You may sign the online register book at:


Original N&O obituary