Elliot Howsie tells the story of how he became Chief Public Defender of Allegheny County: ‘God will choose the least worthy and make them worthy’
The Comfort Inn, Penn Hills, hosted the 2018 Breakfast and Fundraiser for the Geneva College at the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry (CUBM) Alumni Network. The Jan. 20 event proved to be a new year’s delight for all who attended. CUBM, which began in 1988, provides an accredited Bible-based degree program to equip each graduate for effective ministry in hopes of impacting their families, churches, communities and the world for the glory of God.
The school’s alumni welcomed Pennsylvania state Rep. Ed Gainey as Master of Ceremony and Elliot Howsie, Esq., Director and Chief Public Defender of Allegheny County as the Keynote Speaker.
One might ask, “Why the Chief Public Defender as the main speaker for a religious occasion?”
The answer was apparent once Howsie began his account of unintended faith that led to his success.
“No one in my family, no one in my neighborhood went to college. My goal (after high school) was to get a car and be able to sleep in,” said Howsie. “My friend said, your grades are better than the rest of us, you should go to college…so I applied to one school, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, got accepted and I studied below my potential, wasting the opportunity that my parents had sacrificed for.”
Howsie continued, “My father, a janitor, took me to work with him during the summer, it changed my life, it gave me an opportunity to appreciate that sacrifice for an education.”
Although studying without a definitive goal in mind, Howsie went on to graduate from IUP with a bachelor’s and master’s in criminology. But even so, with no sense of direction, he was unwittingly establishing an educational base for his ordained job. With the prodding of the same friend, Howsie frivolously applied for Duquesne University’s graduate program, got accepted seemingly by happenstance and earned his Juris Doctor in 1998.
Howsie continued to share, in a hilarious way, how the prayers of his mother and blind faith carried him through internships, the dark days of divorce and joblessness until receiving those two calls in 2012—one from Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the other from Urban League President & CEO Esther L. Bush with a job offer to become the first African American Chief Public Defender of Allegheny County, with a staff of 126 people, a historic position that would ultimately impact the direction of his professional career.
“I shouldn’t have had this job, I was clueless but I believed in the power of prayer, I believe that God will choose the least worthy and make them worthy,” Howsie told the crowd.
Most in attendance considered Howsie’s story more of testimony and confirmation of “steps ordered by God” when you equip yourself for service. In his closing remarks, Howsie stated: “Begin to identify the next group of leaders and continue to deposit our resources into the people that need it the most, you can’t grow without it. You never know who is the next Rev. (Beverly) Jackson or Rev. (Karla) Byrd or the next Dr. (William) Glaze, you can’t take it with you. Continue to embrace the challenges; but at the same time, stop to be grateful and mindful of how far you’ve come.”
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