Portrait of the lawyer as a man
Regarded as one of the top legal minds in the country, Jackson Howard’s career in law is brimming with honor and awards for his accomplishments on both the state and national level. Among several achievements, Howard was invited to join the Inner Circle of Advocates, International Academy of Trial Lawyers and American Board of Trial Advocates as Diplomat. Howard was also named the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Utah Trial Lawyers Association in 2000.
In spite of numerous distinctions for his legal expertise, Howard’s career may not be the stuff TV movies are made of. But only because he has based his career on what he feels makes the most impact: leadership. And he has chosen to lead where he felt he could affect the most good. Right here in his native Utah Valley.
Although Howard’s accomplishments uniquely set him apart, he is adamant that the elements of leadership are available to everyone. “Leadership requires knowledge. That means you have to get education and experience.”
Passion for leadership and education, encouragement from lifelong friend Bill Anderson and an invitation from former UVU President Kerry Romesburg initially got Howard involved with UVU. In 1998, he initially supported UVU with the Wee Care Center, a day care for single parent students. More than ten years and significant financial contributions later to scholarships, the library and the Center for Advancement of Leadership, Jackson Howard is still practicing law, still serving the community and still supporting UVU.Jackson of all Trades
Regarded for his legal expertise, Howard’s intellect extends far beyond the walls of a law library, a quality cherished by his friends.
“He reads and reads and retains everything,” Anderson said. “We get together and he can talk for hours on any topic.”
In fact, the morning we met, Howard had just finished reading “Empires of the Sea,” an enlightening history of three great 16th century battles and their leaders. Jackson relayed names of cities from the story with detail and vigor that would rival any passionate history professor.
Sitting in his classically styled, wood-paneled library amidst floor to ceiling shelves of books, each of which he’s read, and most more than once, Howard shared the secret to his quick mind and youthful energy.
“I rode my bike 10 miles yesterday!” Howard said with spunk. “The mind is a muscle and you have to exercise it. I do my best thinking when I ride my bike.”
This ingenuous attorney, also a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve and past Mayor of Edgemont, grew up on 500 South 400 West in Provo, right next to the railroad tracks, where he worked greasing locomotives as a yard clerk on the Union Pacific.
Reflecting on his early days in Provo and growing up during the Great Depression, Howard shared that he “got expelled from high school three times!”
“I took Chemistry and I learned how to make a stink bomb which I proceeded to throw at the girls’ chorus,” Howard continued, but then reassured that “but other than that I was a straight-A student.”
Fortunately for Howard and the Provo community, Howard abandoned impish pranks when he left Provo High School, but retained his sense of humor, keen intellect and passion for learning which he would continue to enhance. The straight A’s paid off and at the age of 17, his academic performance granted him acceptance into the US Navy Reserve where he entered officer training.
“It was not a voluntary matter when I was a young man. The war was on. In 1943 people were getting killed.” More solemnly, Howard recollected on how “[his] good friend, we used to drag main in his 1935 Chrysler… he was killed in France. Five of my classmates were killed at Iwo Jima.”
At 19 Howard was an Officer in the Navy and a veteran of World War II. With a reinforced sense of moral and civic duty, Howard left the Navy to pursue his goal of law school.
“I got a good education, a couple of diplomas on the GI Bill, and a Navy commission and older men had to salute me; but I couldn’t buy beer. I was too young!”A Community Engaged Leader
Although he was accepted to Yale, Howard attended the University of Utah to stay close to his parents whom, as an only child, he had been away from for years. By 23 Howard had graduated and passed the Utah Bar, and set to the task of making a living that would allow him to provide for his family and serve his community.
Jackson returned to Provo and set to the task of getting to know the people he would work with and serve the rest of his life, working nights in the rail yard and as a police dispatcher. During law school, Howard was impressed with the value of human experience in shaping a leader.
“The old dean of the law school used to tell me ‘You won’t learn that in law school, you need to go down to 2nd South and Main and watch the people go by. That’s where the experience is.’”
All the while growing Howard Lewis & Petersen PC into a premier Utah firm remained committed to his passionate views on leadership and civic responsibility, in his 83 years, Jackson served as District Attorney, special counsel to Provo City, Director of the Provo Chamber of Commerce and member of the Utah State Legislative Council, just to name a few.
“The best students ought to come to smaller communities where they can lead. It isn’t the objective to write briefs on arcane subjects for judges who don’t read them. The objective is to come into the community and do something that’s worthwhile.”
UVU, with The Center for Advancement of Leadership at UVU and the Community of Engaged Learning initiative now strives to instill this same sense of integrity and responsibility in UVU students today.