June 2016 Bar Bulletin
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June 2016 Bar Bulletin

Outstanding Lawyer Award: Lembhard Howell

By Judge LeRoy McCullough

 

There are certain words or phrases that capture the essence of Lembhard (“Lem”) Howell. Bold. Intrepid. Mercurial. Brilliant. Dedicated. Self-deprecating. Inspiring. Family man.

William Earnest Henley must have known about Howell before he wrote that infamous line in the classic Invictus: “…my head is bloody but unbowed…”

Howell has touched many lives across this community for decades. I personally am eternally grateful to Howell for my first law job, this after surviving my first year of the UW Law School in 1973. Howell was by then a community legend who feared no one — police, prosecutor, press or the devil himself. He was the epitome of success, a well-spoken, confident man with a baby-blue Mercedes sports car that gave us law students hope.

It would have been easy for Howell to rest in the suburbs and abandon law students like me or the African-American community I had become a part of. He didn’t. He joined with the other few black attorneys in this area to form the historic Loren Miller Bar Law Club. The association organized to meet the needs of the black community and to provide African-American barristers and law students mutual edification and support.

One of the first cases I worked on as his law clerk involved a police shooting in the Central Area of a young African-
American man. The family retained Howell to pursue justice and that he did with all of his might. I was struck by his detailed review of the coroner’s report and I was encouraged by his analytical approach to the disturbing photo images of this young man whose life had ended far too early. Howell did not see the young man as a statistic, but as a person whose life potential had been unfairly snuffed out.

Howell would continue to engage all of the justice system partners as he advocated for a prosecution, law enforcement and court system that was better, more inclusive and fair to African-Americans and to all community members. When Howell, along with other Loren Miller Bar Association members, secured a victory for inclusiveness in the Seattle Fire Department, the entire community celebrated. He had a dream and was methodical in having that dream realized.

Howell continues to be the ultimate mentor. He is aware that mistakes are stepping stones to success and he is quick to accordingly remind his mentors to keep the “failures” in perspective.

After ensuring that I as an inexperienced law clerk was baptized by immersion in the nuts and bolts of real versus academic law practice, Howell would continue on his mission by taking on additional students and interns while continuing to offer unconditional support for me and for my family. It was through his nomination and imprimatur that I became president of Loren Miller, one of the youngest bar members in that organization’s history to receive that honor. On occasions when I was outraged over what was clearly discriminatory treatment, the mercurial Howell was the penultimate calming force, urging me and others to look at the big picture and at the greater goal.

Howell has kept that greater goal at the forefront throughout his entire life and career. This honor is well deserved.

 

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