Judge Arnold was born in Harnett County and grew up on a tobacco farm adjoining the Cape Fear River. His granddaughters are the fifth generation of his family at Holden Beach where he lives with his wife, Shirley.
After graduating from East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina Law School, he began his career in 1966 with a law firm in Lillington, N.C.
In 1971, he was elected to the N.C. General Assembly, became an Associate Judge of the N.C. Court of Appeals in 1974, authored a record number of opinions for that Court and served as Chief Judge from 1992 until he retired in 1998.
Following retirement from the Court, Judge Arnold was named Senior Vice President of Lawyers Mutual Liability Insurance Company of N.C., a major N.C. company and an A Rated insurance company providing professional liability coverage for 80 percent of the State's lawyers. Lawyers Mutual of N.C. was also the parent company of Lawyers Mutual of Georgia, Lawyers Mutual Reinsurance Company and Lawyers Mutual Insurance Agency. Judge Arnold was President and CEO of Lawyers Mutual in 2010 when he retired.
Judge Arnold took a leave of absence from Lawyers Mutual to become Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of Courts, overseeing the centralized administration and budgeting for the State's Courts and its over 400 employees. He then returned to his duties at Lawyers Mutual.
The annual meeting of the N.C. Supreme Court Historical Society for 2022 was held in honor of Judge Arnold in recognition for his services to North Carolina.
His many professional activities include the American Bar Association and various State Bar and special Bar associations and various offices, committees and task forces consistent with those organizations. Judge Arnold chaired the Judicial Standards Commission and was a longstanding member of the Chief Justices' Commission on Professionalism. His public service activities include the Board of Trustees, Campbell University, Trustee for the Baptist State Convention, Deacon, Hays Barton Baptist Church, Chair, N.C. Literary and Historical Association, Chair East Carolina University Foundation and Emeritus Chair, East Carolina University Alumni Association, the N.C. Art Museum Building Commission.
Judge Arnold believes that it is most important to know as much as possible about the history, heritage and people of Holden Beach. Serving on the Board of Commissioners means it is helpful to see, observe and learn from colleagues. Pay attention to duty, detail and mission. Practice public discourse with civility and reason, never with insults and demonizing. The process is delicate and complicated. We should strive not only to be fair, but to be fair minded. To come as close as we possibly can get to objectivity, which means separating facts from ego and bias.