Philip Fullerton Howerton, Jr. ’58

Native Charlottean Philip Fullerton Howerton, Jr. died peacefully at home on January 15, 2021, with his family and Jack Russells, Sassy and Smitty, by his side. Born on February 13, 1936, Phil lived most of his life in Charlotte. He was preceded in death by his parents Lemma Shepherd Howerton and Philip F. Howerton.

Survivors include his wife of 31 years, the former Mary St. Claire Howren, and his children, Philip F. Howerton III (Meg) and Ashley Howerton Smith (Jackson); grandchildren, Philip F. Howerton IV, Marshall McCall Howerton, Jackson McArdle “Mac” Smith, Jr., Lucy Howerton Smith and Ann McLaney Smith. He also is survived by numerous family members from the Shepherd, McMillan, Bradish and Wood clans.

His passions included cooking, writing, reading and fishing. Phil mastered the art of wood-working, producing more than 130 pieces of original and antique reproductions. He was educated at the Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, received an undergraduate degree in history from Davidson College, a master’s in public policy from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. He served in the US Marine Corps and was honorably discharged as a Captain.

Phil enjoyed an eclectic legal career. He practiced corporate law with Moore & Van Allen, opened a solo practice, joined a small firm partnership, and also served as an assistant District Attorney and assistant Public Defender. It was in the courtroom where Phil found his cadence and skill as one of Mecklenburg’s top litigators, often trying high profile capital cases. For nearly 30 years he served on the District Court Bench in Mecklenburg County and as an emergency judge. He introduced North Carolina’s first Drug Treatment Court. Later, he was to initiate the first DWI court in the country. These special courts functioned as practical and compassionate jurisprudence, a philosophy he modeled throughout his years on the bench. He earned numerous recognitions for his selfless work with substance abuse programs throughout North Carolina, but he was careful to acknowledge that the efforts required a team’s dedication.

A private memorial service will held at 2:00 PM on Monday, January 25, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church. The service will be streamed live on the church website,

The family requests memorial gifts to Hospice & Palliative Care PO Box 470408, Charlotte, NC 28052 or to Justice Initiatives, Inc., P.O Box 33545, Charlotte, NC 28233(for the Mecklenburg County STEP Drug Treatment Court program).

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at

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