Howard Boyd: Son of a Preacher Who Became An Attorney
By Kevin Dietrich
William Howard Boyd Jr., the son of a preacher, possessed a preacher’s voice, which he employed to great use as one of the state’s best-regarded trial attorneys.
Boyd, who died at age 70 of leukemia on June 20, enjoyed a legal career spanning more than 40 years and helped build the Greenville-based law firm Gallivan, White & Boyd from a single-office entity with fewer than 10 attorneys into a multistate operation known for its litigation prowess.
“Howard’s ability to mentor young lawyers is one of the key reasons we’ve grown to 70 attorneys today,” said Gallivan, White & Boyd partner Daniel White. “Many of the young lawyers he mentored went on to become partners in our firm, and many are now serving on the corporate staffs of firms throughout our region, such as BMW and Michelin.”
Boyd was known for his civic work as well.
He was active in numerous Upstate nonprofits, including serving as board chairman for the United Way of Greenville County, general counsel for the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Leadership Greenville Alumni Association, chairman for the Upcountry History Museum, board member for the Blue Ridge Council of Boy Scouts, president of the board of Coaches 4 Character and president of the Downtown Sertoma Club of Greenville.
Boyd was also active in his church, Westminster Presbyterian, where he was an elder, taught Sunday School and served on numerous committees.
“He was very committed to the Greenville community, both in business and civic circles,” firm partner Phil Reeves said. “People on the boards of organizations saw his leadership, and they wanted him to be involved in their organizations.”
Boyd graduated from Davidson College in 1972, served two years in the Army, then attended the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he was editor of the Law Review.
He joined Gallivan, White & Boyd, then known as Rainey, McKay, Britton, Gibbes & Clarkson, in 1977 as it was shifting gears with the goal of specializing in litigation. Boyd joined as the eighth attorney, just a year after White and H. Mills Gallivan, all of whom would become name partners.
“Howard was an integral part of growing the litigation part of the firm and helping to make it what it is today,” Reeves said.
Boyd would go on to lead the business and commercial litigation team, handling more than 200 jury trials and numerous appeals.
Among the cases he was involved with was representing Norfolk Southern Corp. as co-lead counsel in an action connected with the 2005 Graniteville train derailment in what is believed to be the largest property damage trial in South Carolina history.
He was the consummate trial lawyer, said David Rheney, the firm’s managing partner.
“(He) had a knack for knowing every detail of a case, turning those details to the advantage of his client, and making the mundane seem interesting,” Rheney said.
In addition to the South Carolina Bar, Boyd was admitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Boyd became a partner in his firm in 1980 and retained that position for 40 years before retiring last year to an “of counsel” role. During his time with Gallivan, White & Boyd, the firm opened offices in Charleston, Charlotte and Columbia, and grew nearly 800 percent.
Despite his dedication to the practice of law, Boyd also knew how to have fun and made an impression on those he knew beyond simply being a top-notch litigator.
“First and foremost, Howard was a great person,” Rheney said. “Whether you spoke to a mutual friend or struck up a conversation with a stranger and learned you both knew Howard, the person you were speaking to almost always had something good to say about him.”
Survivors include his wife of 45 years, Susan Sherer Boyd, two sons, a daughter-in-law, a grandson, a sister, and a brother.
“He was a force of nature, and he will be missed,” Reeves said.