Death of Howard Twiggs, Trial Lawyer

Former ATLA President Howard Twiggs has died.   Funeral services are today.  Howard has been a friend for over 25 years and was a leader in the plaintiff’s trial bar and his community.

I first met Howard at a NCATL seminar in Chapel Hill, NC when I was still a law student.  Later, we became re-acquainted at ATLA conventions and meetings around the country.  About 12 years ago we had the pleasure of working on a case together, helping a North Carolina family that had a tragic accident on I-40 near Lebanon, TN.    Thus, we had time to get to know one another in a long car rides and over dinner in my home, as opposed to simply running into each other at a reception at convention or two.

I say all of that to say this:  Howard Twiggs was a very, very fine man and an extremely competent lawyer.  He had a love for his fellow man, and felt duty-bound to help them, especially those who were not blessed with his intellect and his health.  He loved his adopted state of North Carolina, and had that wonderful accent that always took me back 1978, when I left WI and jumped into life in the South.

I had the pleasure of seeing Howard five weeks ago in Maui.  He was there with  his daughters, still going to education sessions and trying to learn how to better serve his clients.  

Howard, my friend, we will miss you.

To gain a better understanding about this wonderful man, read the obituary after the jump.



Howard Fabing Twiggs passed away unexpectedly Thursday morning. He was a lifelong resident of Raleigh but was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 27, 1932.

Howard received his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University in 1954; and went on to get his law degree there in 1957. He was still actively practicing law as a partner in Twiggs, Beskind, Strickland & Rabenau in Raleigh when he died, having been a lawyer for more than 50 years. Over his practice, Howard diligently represented countless North Carolinians injured in accidents and accused of crimes.

His service to the law and to his clients has included working with many organizations and commissions. Howard served as a director of the Roscoe Pound Civil Justice Institute in Washington, D.C., for 20 years, and as its president for two years. He was a charter member of the North Carolina Chief Justice’s Committee on Professionalism. For more than a decade, he was a member of the North Carolina Courts Commission.

Howard’s excellence as a trial lawyer led to his election to fellowship in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers; International Society of Barristers; and American Board of Trial Advocacy. Fellow lawyers chose him for listing in Best Lawyers in America and in North Carolina Super Lawyers since their first editions and he was selected as a Top 100 North Carolina Super Lawyer by the latter publication.

Howard was a frequent lecturer to lawyers around the United States on trial advocacy and professionalism topics. He also lectured and taught trial advocacy in five foreign countries: Canada, Mexico, England, Holland, and Australia.

He was elected and served as a Board Member and as President of the American Association for Justice (formerly The Association of Trial Lawyers of America), the national organization of lawyers representing injured persons. For his service to that organization, Howard received many awards including AAJ’s three highest awards: the Leonard Ring Champion of Justice Award; the Harry Philo Award for commitment to individual rights and leadership in the pursuit of justice; and the David Shrager President’s Award for visionary leadership, support, and service to the cause of justice. He was only the second person in the history of the organization to receive all three of those awards.

Howard served for 34 years as board member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (formerly The North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers). He was also elected its President and also its delegate to the AAJ Board. For his service to NCAJ, his awards included the Walter Clark Award for Extraordinary Service to Justice; the Outstanding Legislator Award; and Election as President Emeritus. 

Howard was President of the Wake County Bar Association and of the North Carolina Tenth Judicial Bar. Recently, Howard was honored by the Wake County Bar Association with the Joseph Branch Professionalism Award. Named for a former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court known for his integrity and public service, the Award recognizes a lawyer who exemplifies professionalism in the practice of law.

Howard was elected and served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 1966 to 1974, serving as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 1973–74. In the General Assembly, his major accomplishments included improving protection for the disabled and injured citizens of North Carolina through passage of a major revision of the state Wrongful Death Act; extending the Statute of Repose; rewriting the laws relating to mental health; and removing all references to race from state laws in 1969. During his time as chair of the State Building Code Committee, the North Carolina Building Code was rewritten, making buildings, sidewalks, vehicular parking, and other areas accessible to the handicapped.

Howard’s love for his alma mater, Wake Forest University, played an important role in his life. He served as the past president of the Wake Forest University Law Alumni Association and as past chairperson of the law school’s Board of Visitors. His service to the University as a whole was recognized when he received the Wake Forest University Distinguished Alumni Award.

Howard received the War Horse Award from the Southern Trial Lawyers Association for leadership in the trial bar, teaching trial advocacy and excellence in the trial of cases for a period of over 30 years. From the National Crime Victim Bar Association he received the Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice Award. The Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates gave him Champion of Justice Award.

From the Raleigh Junior Chamber of Commerce, Howard received its Distinguished Service Award as Young Man of the Year. The Carolina Mental Health Association bestowed on him its Lief Valland Award for outstanding service to North Carolina as a leader and as a legislator in the field of Mental Health.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Betty McBride Twiggs, and four daughters, Mary Catherine (Sissie) Twiggs and husband Vincent Valverde, Jennifer Twiggs and husband Ivi Bilich, Elizabeth Johnson, and Ashley Bryan Twiggs and husband Brandtly Jones. He had six grandchildren, Savannah Valverde Twiggs, Julian Valverde Twiggs, Lauren Valverde, Sebastian Valverde, Juliana Bilich Twiggs, Logan Bilich Twiggs, Jamie Johnson and Stone Johnson. Also one sister, Carolyn Twiggs Fox of Winston-Salem, niece Margaret Fox Miller and nephews, Spencer Fox and David Fox.
The family will receive friends at the home on Friday, March 5 from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday, March 7 from 3:00 until 6:00 p.m. A memorial service will be held on Monday, March 8 at 3:00 p.m. at St. Michaels Episcopal Church in Raleigh.

Memorial gifts made be made to Pound Civil Justice Institute (Howard Twiggs Memorial Fund), 777 Sixth Street, N.W., Washington DC 20007, to the Capitol YMCA, or to the Wake County SPCA.

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