Chief Justice Howe reflects on nearly a century of memories
Jun 18, 2018 03:18PM
By Shaun Delliskave
Former Chief Justice Howe attends official ribbon-cutting ceremony, opening Justice Howe Lane in Hamlet Homes’ Balintore development. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
For his 22 years on the Utah Supreme Court and as a member of one of Murray’s oldest families, Chief Justice Richard Howe has been honored by having a street named after him. Justice Howe Lane, part of the new Balintore neighborhood by Hamlet Homes, intersects the former Howe homestead on 5600 South.
In 1980, Gov. Scott Matheson appointed Howe to the Utah Supreme Court; he served as Chief Justice for his final four years. He was known for his fairness and for treating others with respect. He retired from the court in 2002. Since then he has been devoted to gardening and growing the sweetest ears of corn—his favorite crop.
The grandson of some of Murray’s earliest settlers, the 94-year-old was born on the property where he would later raise his family. He lived there for a total of 93 years. While attending Woodstock Elementary, Irving Junior High and Granite High School, he remembers going to Murray Park and swimming in its pool. Back then, the pool was fed directly from Little Cottonwood Creek.
“It was really cold most of the time,” said Howe.
He fondly remembers growing up in a Murray that no longer exists, such as getting ice cream at Tyler’s Café. He also remembers the Murray City Pharmacy (now Wright’s Costumes at 4874 State Street).
“I worked there at one time, and it was also the same place that I met my future wife, Juanita. I was always interested in farming. As a boy, I worked on my uncle’s farm, and there were farms all around us in the Murray area. It was in my junior year of high school that I took a class called commercial law. Much to my delight, the class was very interesting. I just decided then that perhaps being a lawyer might be a better career choice.”
Howe went on to the University of Utah and graduated with a law degree. Keeping close to his Murray roots, he hung out his attorney shingle on State Street. His reputation for being a good lawyer soon spread, and he was appointed a judge on the Murray City Court, serving from 1953 to 1955.
He also represented Murray for six terms in the Utah House of Representatives and two terms in the Utah Senate. Howe, who had played a central leadership role in shepherding judicial reform bills through the legislature as Speaker of the House, caught the attention of Matheson for a potential State Supreme Court Justice.
During their time on the court, Howe and fellow justices Dallin Oaks and Christine Durham were noted for their efforts to reform and modernize Utah’s judicial system. Many processes and procedures that Howe instituted can still be seen in Utah’s judicial organizations today.
“I think the hardest thing (about being a judge) was affirming sentences on men and women who had committed criminal acts,” Howe said. “It made me always reflect on my own life—about the importance of being raised in a good home and having good friends around me.”
Howe’s colleagues were always recipients of his garden’s bounty. Upon his retirement as chief justice, he received as a gift a new set of gardening implements to carry on his farming passion, which he uses to this very day.
In order to help all those who pass through Justice Howe Lane understand Howe’s personal history and legacy, Hamlet Homes has installed a community plaque at the entrance to the neighborhood. The plaque contains an old aerial photo of the land with a brief biography of Howe.
When asked if he would do anything differently in his near-century of life, the judge reflects, “I don’t think I would change things very much. I would hopefully spend more time outdoors with my family. I also would like to have a bigger garden so that I could raise more of that wonderful sweet corn.”