Howard Twiggs


           I first met Howard Twiggs when he was a teenage counselor at Camp Sea Gull and my older brother was spending part of a summer there.  The next time I saw Howard, he had little hair and was one of the best lawyers I had ever seen.  I did not know how good he was until the summer of 1983.


            I had been appointed Special Prosecutor in a case involving then Lt.Governor Jimmy Green in a case involving alleged bribery. Howard and Wade Smith were Mr. Green’s two lawyers. Howard walked into the courtroom on the third floor of the Wake County Courthouse late one June afternoon and glared at me.  I was the prosecutor, and he was the defense attorney. And he was going to take no prisoners.


            We spent the next several months in very real combat with the trial starting in mid October in the same courtroom.  I remember two specific events from that trial.  About mid way through the government’s presentation of evidence, our top witness, an F.B.I. agent, had spent about a day and a half on the witness stand. I asked my last question and sat back satisfied we had done our best, and now it was their shot at cross-examination. I couldn’t wait. We were primed to unload when the wrong question on cross was asked. I thought they would take at least a day, and our case would only grow stronger.


            But then, there was silence across the room. No one was saying anything.  I looked over, somewhat confused, and saw Howard slowly and hesitantly standing up to address the Court.  It took forever.  Finally, the words came.  Howard looked at the Judge and then at me and smiled softly, “ We have no questions, your Honor.”  I was stunned.  We really never recovered. I thought then and think now it was one of the smartest and courageous moves I have ever seen anyone do.  Howard and Wade gambled, and won, that we had not hurt them enough on Direct Examination to make them ask any questions and not doing that would show a strong signal of confidence to the jury.


            About a week later, when they were putting on evidence, they proceeded to use as character witnesses some of my best friends, including Robert Morgan and dared me to ask tough questions.  I walked over to their table and said, “Howard, what the heck are you doing?” He laughed and said, “Blackburn, we got your Mother outside waiting to come in here in a minute.”  They won the case.  Lt.Governor Green was found “Not Guilty.”


            That was vintage Howard. Great lawyering and great humor. I should add, and much compassion. Later, in my life, when I got in trouble, he was always kind, and he was always there. He had been ill a couple of years ago but had recovered and was doing well, exercising and even spent part of this past Christmas with his family in Maui. 


            And then, late last week, in the shower at the Y, after another morning exercising, his life gave out.  But a life so well lived. I ask folks all the time in programs, “How do you want to be remembered?”  Howard died, knowing that a wonderful answer to that question is secure.



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