RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Ken Starr was at the center of a five-year investigation that nearly brought down a president. It began with fraudulent real estate deals involving a long-time Bill and Hillary Clinton associate and led to the then president’s sexual encounters with intern Monica Lewinsky.

At the time the White House painted Starr, the special counsel appointed to the case, as a right-wing fanatic.

Raleigh attorney Joshua Howard completely disagrees with that assessment.

“He was long used to moments of great gravity like the impeachment proceedings. I don’t know that anyone could have navigated it any better under those circumstances,” Howard told CBS 17.

Josh Howard came to work in the special counsel’s office just as Starr was leaving. But Starr made frequent appearances and loved to talk about his alma mater.

“He would still pull me aside because he’s a big Duke guy, he graduated from Duke Law School, and I am a devout Blue Devil fan. You know he would still pull me aside despite the gravity of everything else going on,” he said.

Howard’s favorite anecdote involves a fellow junior staffer.

“And Judge Starr would routinely pull him into his office despite there is an absolute Army of media with sound booms and camera trucks and satellite trucks all outside the office and every entrance and he would pull that guy in and talk to him about his first year of law student classes for an hour at a time as if nothing else is going on in the world and he’s the most important person in the world,” Howard recalled.

Howard still has his own copies of the final Starr report. It concluded that Bill Clinton lied under oath and obstructed justice. Clinton was impeached by the house and acquitted in the senate.

Years later the same happened to Donald Trump—twice.

In the second case, Starr was on the opposite side of the room as an attorney for the defense.

“President Clinton’s behavior was so shocking at the time that it deserved the attention that Judge Starr gave it. None of that compares to the horror of watching people storm the capitol on the day congress would decide to certify the election,” Howard said.

Today, however, it’s the early impression that Starr gave nearly 30 years ago that remains with Howard.

“He knew the names of everyone and left the impression that he is always a gentleman and a scholar even if the direction he’s headed might be controversial,” he said.

Starr died September 13 at the age of 76.