One night, after pulling a woman over for suspected drunk driving, instead of her taking out a driver’s license, she extracted a raw steak from her purse. Another night, on a routine patrol of a neighborhood, a loud scream came from a resident’s yard. After entering the yard, it became known that the scream was from a caged monkey. The monkey’s owner had been gone for a few days, and his water bowl was empty, which caused the animal to shriek into the night.
These are just two situations that W. Howard Mowery encountered in his career as a police officer. When he was faced with the option of law school or working for a state bureau of investigation, it was a tort class—and the professor of that class—that won Howard’s heart and caused him to pursue a career as a lawyer.
A native of Idabel, Okla., the experienced trial lawyer and mediator comes from a line of law enforcement officials. One of his cousins served his entire career as a state trooper in Texas. Howard’s grandfather was a police officer, deputy sheriff and game warden. He spent many weekends camping with his grandfather and his grandfather’s friends, who were also in law enforcement. He remembers sitting around campfires listening to stories about their work and the people they met. It was during those nights, under the open skies of Oklahoma, that Howard learned just how fearless and brave his grandfather and all police officers really have to be.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business from Oklahoma State University, Howard was intent on becoming a bank examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, so he began several rounds of lengthy interviews for the job. He learned, a few months later, that he had not been selected, and so, at 22, without a job and living with his parents, he was faced with a question: What next? Though the stories from all those nights around the campfire with those in law enforcement still enthralled him, Howard decided on law school but had another year to wait before starting.
One weekend during this time, he received a ticket for squealing his tires while coming out of a local Sonic Drive-In. That next week, when he went to pay the ticket, he ran into the police chief, who had been a longtime family friend. The chief asked Howard if he was looking for work. Howard explained that his banking career aspirations were no more and that he was waiting to start law school in a year. There, on the spot, the chief offered Howard a job as a police officer.
Howard began work right away with his training officer. They were on the night shift—11 p.m. to 8 a.m., where most of the work done is surveillance of homes and businesses. On his very first night, around 2 a.m., they came upon a dentist’s office and noticed the front door was ajar. Before getting out of the car, the training officer cautioned Howard to be careful; if anyone was inside, prescription drugs was likely the motive, and the intruder was probably hopped up on them. Fortunately, after assessing the situation, they found no one inside, and everything was safe.
“This was a wake-up call for me…this is real, and lives could be at stake. I was thinking, ‘Please don’t let me shoot a 12-year-old kid who’s just in here committing mischief,’” Howard said. “I admire those that truly are committed law enforcement professionals. Their jobs are not easy, and they have to make split-second decisions that have wide-ranging effects on a number of people.”
In that one year, Howard witnessed—and experienced—a lot. He shares stories of arrests, being attacked by dogs, car chases, people falling across the trunk of his patrol car, seeing a murder scene, domestic disturbances—and even the raw steak lady and the screaming monkey. Though these stories carry their own weight, it’s the story of a drunk driver killing three small children one night that solidified Howard’s decision to become a lawyer. His passion is in fighting for justice for others—families of murder victims and those wronged by other individuals or the government.
The police chief who got Howard into law enforcement called him one day while he was in law school, asking if he would be interested in going to work for the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation. “I gave it some serious thought,” Howard said. “I really enjoyed the work and could have seen myself making a career out of it. But serving others—in a legal sense—was the eventual path I chose. Being a lawyer lets me sort through details of cases, listen to people and apply case law to each situation to find the best possible result for everyone I work with. I am still helping people, though a little differently than I once dreamed. And I would not trade it for the world.”
Howard serves in an Of Counsel role in Spicer Rudstrom’s Texarkana office, where his practice involves business and commercial litigation, insurance coverage litigation, premises liability, real estate and construction litigation, family law and trucking and transportation litigation. He is admitted to practice in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.