A funny oversight led to the recent swearing in of Midwest City attorney Jim Howell to serve on the school board of Mid-Del Schools.
Howell’s predecessor, Stan Greil, planned to run for the five-year position but, late in the afternoon of the final day of filing, Greil learned he was disqualified because he lived outside the Ward 4 District, Howell said. Several subsequently scurried to ask Howell if he’d step in, which he graciously did. Uncontested, he was elected by default Feb. 11.
But while Howell’s candidacy wasn’t intentional, the new school board member is more than prepared for the job. A former teacher, Howell served 16 years, from 1970 to 1986, as state senator for District 42, and seven years, from 2004 to 2011, as a regent of Rose State College.
All the while, he’s worked as senior partner of his own law practice in Midwest City, which today employs six attorneys including Howell’s son, David F. Howell. The senior Howell focuses on personal injury; his son, on adoptions, trusts and wills; and their colleagues, on divorce, contracts, oil and gas, and other legal matters.
From The Underground coffee shop a few blocks north of his law offices on S Douglas in Midwest City, Howell, 79, sat down to sip a French vanilla mocha, or “Jim Howell special” according to the shop’s posted menu, and talk with The Oklahoman about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in Wewoka with a younger sister. Our father was a mechanic and ran a garage with his brother. Our mother graduated from OBU and taught sixth grade at Justice School, a mostly Native American, country school located about three miles southwest of Wewoka, where I went through the eighth grade.
When I reached my mother’s level, she took a job with DHS and years later, after earning her master’s at OU at age 65, advanced to one of the agency’s top executives.
Q: What was the highlight of your school days?
A: Basketball. I learned how to dribble playing on a dirt court at Justice. Then at Wewoka High School, I broke into the lineup my sophomore year. By my senior year, we were district champions. We had this one play that would guarantee us 10 points every game. Our point guard would throw the ball near the basket, then I — at 6-feet-4-inches — would reach up and tip that sucker in.
I went on to play scholarship ball for Coach Don McClanen (who founded the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) at Eastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College in Wilburton. Both years I was there, we were state champions and advanced to the national playoffs. I played one year at OBU. But the coach pulled my scholarship my senior year, so I had to work to stay in school. I literally dug ditches and worked in the shop on campus.
Q: How’d you meet your wife?
A: At OBU. She was a beautiful, little blonde engaged to a fellow who was going to be a preacher. I sat behind her in Spanish class, and then sat behind her one Sunday night at a youth event at Emmanuel Baptist Church. I said something about recognizing the back of her head, and she laughed. Then one Sunday, she handed me a note, asking if I’d walk her to class the next day, and things kind of took off. We were married the December after I graduated.