Former Judge Ross E. Mowry, 98, Dies






When he was a young military lawyer defending soliders during World War II accused of murder, rape and desertion, the U. S. Army asked Ross E. Mowry if he wanted to be a prosecutor.

He refused.

Mowry later explained to the Sun-Sentinel that he “liked to take the side of the downtrodden, and there`s nothing better than beating a persecutor.”

A Broward Circuit Judge from 1977-1989, Mowry died Saturday. He was 98.

“He was a true Southern gentleman and to those who knew and or remember him, it is a true loss,” retired prosecutor Jim Tylock e-mailed

Mowry grew up in Gainesville and was a University of Florida Law School graduate in 1941. It was just in time for World War II.

He entered the military as a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army Field Artillery.

He quickly was assigned as a defense attorney in the military courts, according to a profile decades ago in the Sun-Sentinel by my pal Joseph Kollin.

After leaving the military in 1947, Mowry drifted down to Fort Lauderdale. He told Kollin he moved here because it was a “nice little town.”

A year later, Fort Lauderdale lawyer and a local power in the Democratic Party Stephen O’Connell nudged Mowry into running for Broward Justice Of The Peace. O’Connell later became best known as the president of the University of Florida and a Florida Supreme Court justice.

Mowry won that 1948 election. He was defeated running for re-election four years later.

In 1960, Mowry became the first assistant public defender’s in the state, the Sun-Sentinel wrote.

“The Broward County Commission, seeing the need for providing lawyers for indigent suspects, created the public defender system. That was five years before the Legislature created the system statewide,” the Sun-Sentinel stated.

The late Clayton Nance got the job as Public Defender. He hired Mowry as his first assistant.

Mowry served as the part-time assistant public defender until he was elected county judge in 1976.

He spent the next decade hearing traffic disputes, feuds between neighbors and other minor crimes and law suits. Although the cases often seemed trivial, they were far from inconsequential to those involved.

Some even made news.

Mowry once ruled that bees were not animals as defined in a Hollywood ordinance that prohibited the keeping of wild animals in residential areas. A man facing jail went home to his thousands of bees.

Another time he slapped singer Jimmy Buffett with a $40 fine and ordered him to attend driving school. Buffett had failed to appear in court for ticket alleging he ran a red light.

Mowry stayed on the bench as long as he could. He was forced out by the law that requires judges to retire at 70, using a provision that allowed him to serve out his last term until he was 71 in January, 1989.

On the guest book accompanying the one-line obituary in the Sun-Sentinel, another veteran Broward lawyer remembered Mowry:


Dear, Dear friend.

There were once four musketeers (King, Mowry, Andrews, and Shahood) and now I am the only one left.

We went to lunch together, laughed together, played practical jokes on every one (especially in the clerks office), and covered for each other.

I will always cherish my memories of those days.

For those who may not know it Judge Mowry was a Major in World War Two serving as a glider pilot. He was born in Santa Rosa, Florida in 1918. He later attended school with Justice James Adkins of the Florida Supreme Court whose trademark to all judges was “Remember you are appointed not anointed.”

My very deepest condolences to the Judge’s son.


George A. Shahood

Hobe, Florida



5 Responses to “Former Judge Ross E. Mowry, 98, Dies”

  1. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    It’s nice to know there was a time when honorable people served the public.

  2. LWO says:

    There are some excellent judges now too, but nobody cares; certainly not the Chief Judge. In our County it’s much more important to write about the negatives and for the leaders to go to dinner with them than to recognize those who just do their jobs well.

    Don’t be surprised to see a mass exodus from the bench between now and 2018. Many of the good ones are looking to leave.

  3. J. David Bogenschutz says:

    Ross was from a time and day when it was fun to be a lawyer here in Broward. He was my public defender when I was an Assistant State Attorney and Assistant County Solicitor.To the day he died, he was the epitome of all that is kind and good about our profession. I will always remember being able to locate him by his hat on the bench outside the courtroom with his cigar left on the crown. A true Southern gentleman during an era when it was still possible to find those “gentle men” here in backwater Broward. The stories that he was a part of are still the staple of the lore of the courts of this county. Rest in Peace my old friend and Godspeed. It was our uncommon gift to have had you as a part of our lives. There is a special place reserved for such people who care about their fellow man, and I’m sure you are there, standing still between them and whatever “Government” there is, to keep them safe, and bring their successful verdicts in…
    Dave Bogenschutz

  4. Matthew Schaefer says:

    Judge Mowry sat in Hollywood for many years. As a judge, he was circumspect, respectful, and kind to young lawyers. A true gentleman

  5. Michael & Joan Velsmid says:

    We are Judge’s next door neighbors for 12 years. Before us our parents Pat and Betty were next door neighbors for over 30 years. You could always find Judge and Pat puttering around in the garage fixing something. We loved the Judge and always looked forward to sharing the holidays with him and being entertained with his many nostalgic adventures. We were preparing the menu for Thanksgiving dinner when we heard the sad news. They broke the mold, as there will never be anyone to fill his shoes. On a lighter note the Lord probably called Judge as He needed a good Defence Attorney to help with traffic waiting to get through the Pearly Gates. Farewell dear friend we miss you. God bless,
    Joan & Michael