Jim E. Cowles, of Dallas, TX, age 88, peacefully passed away on June 12, 2022, at his home following a long battle with restrictive lung disease. Jim was a well-known and towering presence in the Texas legal landscape. A native of Wichita Falls, TX, he blended the Texas spirit of embracing challenges with a deep love for the practice of law.
Jim graduated from Wichita Falls High School where he was awarded the distinct title of “Mr. Howdy.” While in high school, he was a member of the singing group, The Westerners, which performed both on radio and television. They patterned their style after the Sons of the Pioneers. He played the guitar and sang tenor. Jim then attended one year at Midwestern University before transferring to what he believed was the only university in Texas—the University of Texas in Austin, where he obtained both his BBA and L.L.B. While at Texas, he was a member of the Tejas Club.
Jim served two years in the United States Navy as an officer. He served an additional eleven years in the active Naval Reserve JAG Unit, retiring as Lt. Commander.
He started his legal career before receiving his law license, trying and winning 10 cases while a law student. Upon graduation, he worked for the Austin firm of Long, Maroney and Aronson and then moved to Dallas, a long-time dream of his. He worked for the Texas & Pacific Railroad Company in their legal department. He then was a partner in the firm Touchstone, Bernays and Johnston. In 1978, he formed the firm of Cowles, Sorrells, Patterson and Thompson n/k/a Cowles Thompson, P.C. During his legal career, he tried over 600 cases in both State and Federal courts. He was admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, all Texas Federal District Courts, all Texas State courts and the Court of Military Appeals. He was a member of the Patrick E. Higgenbotham American Inn of Court, Master Emeritus.
Jim was well regarded by both sides of the bar. It was well known in the legal community that his word was his bond. He was a champion for his clients but always treated opposing counsel, opposing parties and the courts with courtesy and respect. During his career, he received numerous awards and honors, many voted on by his peers, both plaintiff and defense side of the bar. Some of his awards include being named by Texas Lawyer as one of the 25 greatest Texas lawyers for the past quarter century, by Texas Law Book as one of the 50 Lions of the Texas Bar, and named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Dallas Bar Association who also honored him with the Justinian award — an award for professional excellence. He carried the coveted AV rating (the highest) by Martindale Hubbell, an acknowledgement by his peers of his skills and ethics. He has been named by D Magazine as one of the best lawyers in Dallas every year since the list’s inception, including being named to its inaugural Best Lawyers 2022 Hall of Fame. He was the lawyer’s lawyer as demonstrated by being named by Texas Lawyer Weekly as one of the top 7 lawyers to go to in Texas for legal malpractice defense. He was truly respected in the law.
He and his former wife, Elizabeth Cowles (Liz), were instrumental in the establishment of Lovers Lane Methodist Church. He held every laity position in the church, including Chairman of the Administrative Board. Using his legal talents, he taught a Sunday School class where they did a mock trial of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was acquitted, of course. At his passing, he was a member of Spring Valley United Methodist Church.
He remained true to his West Texas roots. If there was a job to be done, no matter how big or small, he would take it on. True to his humble beginnings, he loved driving his Chevrolet pick-up truck to work and to trials listening to the Sons of the Pioneers.
Jim leaves an incredible legacy, both professionally and personally. He was one of the best trial lawyers in the state – fearless, tenacious, and able to relate to juries. He taught and mentored hundreds of young lawyers, many of whom became great lawyers themselves. He worked hard, kidded around and was loyal and protective of people at all levels.
Jim Cowles was certainly a lion to us. He will be dearly missed and well-remembered.