Lawyers Mutual congratulates attorney Cheryl D. Howell, who was honored by the N.C. State Bar with the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award in June.
Congratulations also to the families and friends of Judge William David Lee and attorney C. Ricky Bowman, who received the award posthumously.
The three were honored in ceremonies in Surry County, Wrightsville Beach and Elkin for their stellar careers and positive contributions to their profession, communities and clients.
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Cheryl D. Howell
Cheryl D. Howell graduated magna cum laude from Appalachian State University in 1984 and with honors from The University of North Carolina School of Law in 1987, where she was a member of the Order of the Coif. She was in private practice from 1987-1991, with Petree, Stockton in Winston-Salem and Reid, Lewis, Deese & Nance in Fayetteville. In 1992, Ms. Howell served as a research assistant for Chief Judge R.A. Hedrick with the N.C. Court of Appeals. From September 1992 until the present, she has been a professor at the UNC School of Government and is currently an Albert Coates Distinguished Professor.
Ms. Howell has served in numerous positions with the North Carolina Bar Association. She is a member of the North Carolina Family Court Advisory Commission and the Chief Justices North Carolina Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Advisory Committee.
Ms. Howell serves the legal profession and the citizens of North Carolina as an educator of both judges and attorneys. She updates the Family Law Chapters of the North Carolina Trial Judges’ Bench Book. She has also co-authored 14 other book chapters, written 15 articles, written almost 100 blog posts for the School of Government’s The Civil Side, and 145 manuscripts for speaking engagements at CLEs, law school classes, and training classes. She has also trained countless judges.
Ms. Howell was awarded the Women of Justice Legal Scholar Award in 2013 and was instrumental in the School of Government receiving ABA awards for its judicial education and training. In 2022, Ms. Howell was awarded the NCBA Liberty Bell Award for her lifelong service to the law in NC. She has shown dedication to the law, the judges, and attorneys of North Carolina, and to the families that must interact with the court system.
C. Ricky Bowman
C. Ricky Bowman was born August 31, 1956, in Elkin and graduated from Surry Central High School. He was a strong believer in hard work, education, and seizing opportunities, all of which he credited with rescuing him from poverty. After a stint at Surry Community College, Mr. Bowman began commuting to Wake Forest University for his undergraduate degree in sociology. He worked his way through college and applied to law school at Campbell University. He graduated from Campbell University School of Law in 1984.
Upon passing the bar exam, Mr. Bowman began operating a private law firm until May 1, 1995, when Governor Jim Hunt appointed him to the post of district attorney for Surry and Stokes Counties. On March 31, 2021, he ended the longest active district attorney tenure in the state.
Over his time in office, Mr. Bowman never faced a competitive election, having run for re-election unopposed seven times. His achievements in office include working with area judges to establish the administrative traffic court, probation court, plea court, and trial court. Under Mr. Bowman, District 17B adopted open file discovery long before it was mandated.
During his time as elected district attorney, Mr. Bowman tried cases big and small. He called the calendar and answered the phones, and never asked an employee to perform any task he would not undertake himself. His door was always open to lawyers, citizens, law enforcement, and even the occasional criminal defendant.
Within the bar itself, Mr. Bowman was often called upon to mediate disputes among lawyers and other officers of the court. He had a gift for identifying common ground and working from there to soften grudges. He did this during plea negotiations and trial preparations. On Fridays, Mr. Bowman made a habit of visiting nursing homes and hospitals and delivering meals to shut ins.
Mr. Bowman was dedicated to mentoring and encouraging young lawyers. He never turned down an opportunity to speak to schoolchildren or civic groups about the legal system and the prosecutor’s role in it. He encouraged his staff to do the same. When addressing the public, as when orienting new prosecutors, he was sure to educate them that his duty was not merely to seek convictions, but to do justice.
Mr. Bowman belonged to the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina District Attorney’s Association, Copeland Masonic Lodge #390 AF and AM, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Rotary Club of Mount Airy, and was a faithful member of New Home Church of Christ for more than 50 years.
As the district’s chief law enforcement officer, Mr. Bowman was committed to convicting the guilty and protecting the innocent—demonstrating that these duties were not mutually exclusive, but essential to promoting confidence in the rule of law. He did this by adhering scrupulously to the highest ethical standards and by aspiring to ensure equal justice under the law.
Honorable William David Lee
Honorable William David Lee received his undergraduate degree from Western Carolina University in 1972 and his law degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law in 1975. He practiced law in Monroe for 27 years in a general civil practice. In 2003 he was appointed to the superior court bench. In 2004, Chief Justice Lake appointed him to the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission, which he later chaired. Judge Lee became the senior resident superior court judge in 2006 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 2016. Just months into his retirement, Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin asked Judge Lee to preside over the legendary Leandro v. State of North Carolina case.
During the time that he served on the bench, Judge Lee worked tirelessly to educate and improve the quality of the judiciary in North Carolina. His strong leadership in managing the ever-increasing caseloads of Union County enabled his judicial district to keep dockets current during a time when backlogs were on the rise statewide. Judge Lee served as a member and later co-chair of the Education Committee for the North Carolina Superior Court Judge’s Conference and served as a presenter at many judicial seminars, legal conferences, and judicial schools.
Judge Lee served his community through service on many boards. In recognition for his service to the community, he was declared the Young Man of the Year by the Monroe-Union County Jaycees, and he received the Distinguished Rotarian of the Year Award. In 2012 he received the Centennial Award for Community Service from the NCBA. In 2016, the governor awarded his highest honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Judge Lee’s exemplary attributes, and his admirable walk through life, are worthy of high recognition and he is a most deserving recipient of the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award.
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