Best, Richard (1869–1939), Northern Ireland attorney general, lord justice of appeal, and politician, was born in Richhill, Co. Armagh, youngest son of Robert Best, weaver of Richhill, and his wife Anne (née Lemon or Leamon). Educated in Dundalk, he went on to pursue a glittering academic career in TCD, which he entered in 1888 on an exhibition scholarship, winning first-class honours in virtually every examination, as well as claiming numerous academic prizes. He graduated from his BA examination with a senior moderatorship and gold medal in mathematics and in ethics and logic. In 1895 he took an MA and was called to the bar.
He began his distinguished legal career practising in Dublin and on the north-eastern circuit, where he featured in many important cases at the Belfast and Armagh assizes. He became a KC (1912), and in 1918 a bencher of the King's Inns, Dublin. In 1926 he was made a bencher of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland and in 1934 an honorary bencher of Lincoln's Inn, London. Appointed in 1921 as the first attorney general of Northern Ireland, he introduced special legislation to combat the threat posed by the IRA. His most notable case saw him appear, with Sir Douglas Hogg, before the judicial committee of the privy council and successfully establish the claim that the British government could not, as the law stood, impose on Northern Ireland the boundary commission created by the Anglo–Irish treaty. This resulted in a special act at Westminster legalising the appointment of a NI representative on the commission. Having been placed on the Irish list of privy councillors (1922), he was appointed (1925) a lord justice of appeal at the supreme court of Northern Ireland.
A staunch unionist, in 1909 he unsuccessfully contested the general election in Armagh South. In the first election to the NI house of commons (1921) he topped the poll in Armagh and was returned again in 1925, carrying a reputation as a forceful and eloquent speaker. He was later appointed a JP and a deputy lieutenant for Co. Armagh.
A prominent and highly active member of the Church of Ireland, he was a member of the general synod, of the diocesan synod of Armagh, and of the diocesan synod of Down and Connor and Dromore. He acted as assessor to the lord primate at the general synod and was chancellor of the dioceses of Armagh and Clogher. Vice-president of the Church of Ireland young men's society, he was also life-governor of the Masonic Boys' School in Dublin and joint trustee of its funds.
Although Best was a president of the Northern Cricket Union and the Irish Cricket Union, his primary sporting love was boxing. Recognised as a knowledgeable commentator and a fine judge, he was vice-president of the Northern Ireland Area Council of the British Board of Boxing Control. As well as attending most of the amateur and professional boxing contests staged in Ulster, he had a particular passion for heavyweight boxing and presented a cup for competition among amateur novice heavyweights.
He married (1904) a daughter of Col. Bevington of Sevenoaks, Kent, England; they had one son, Richard, who was also a barrister. He died 23 February 1939 after a short illness at his home, ‘St Columba’, King's Rd, Knock, Belfast, and was buried at Rich Hill, Co. Armagh.