Pete Woods traces the roots of his deep community service to the family dinner table in 1970s University City.
With a newspaper union president for a father and a mother, Harriett Woods, who would rise from the U City Council to state lawmaker to lieutenant governor, public service as a core value was instilled in Woods at an early age.
“Summer vacations were focused on Newspaper Guild conventions, sometimes stopping on our drive to walk picket lines with striking workers,” said Woods, the middle of three sons. “And Mom was always sort of the guardian of the underdog in her political career and in her private life.”
The path that would lead Woods to the law was laid at the University of Missouri, where the English major was mentored by literature professor and Vice Chancellor Walter Daniel. Law school would have to wait, though, as the two-sport star (baseball pitcher and football quarterback) at Mizzou was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1978 and spent parts of four years as an NFL quarterback with several teams.
Back in St. Louis, Woods served as outstate coordinator on his mother’s 1982 U.S. Senate campaign while a Washington University law student, later leveraging his pro football experience to become a professional sports agent, also while still in school.
“It felt like such a natural role, but I quickly found a different reality,” Woods said of his time as an agent. “I lost patience dealing with the [spoiled] athletes — I guess it takes one to know one.”
He began practicing commercial litigation in 1985, and for the past 22 years he has been managing partner at Haar & Woods, with a focus on business and commercial litigation, real estate and family law.
Attorney Al Johnson in 1995 co-founded with Woods a local organization, Reconcilers, Inc., which was “dedicated to breaking down the walls of racial division.” Johnson calls his longtime friend and colleague an advocate at heart, whether in his local community, for organizations or in his work for the underprivileged, “which is a hallmark of many of his cases.”
A member of the University City High School Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Woods previously served as a board member on both the St. Louis Sports Commission and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Woods attributes his commitment to improving race relations to the diversity which existed in his University City community, his relationships in athletics and his devout Christian faith. The Journey-Tower Grove is his home church congregation.
In 2016, Woods was tapped by Mizzou’s athletic director to serve as an adviser to the university on urban diversity issues after fallout from the fatal Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown resulted in student demonstrations and a threatened boycott by university football players. In 2017, he was elected St. Louis president, and later to a national board position, for the NFL Players Association.
Woods lives and works in the city of St. Louis, with a home in the West End neighborhood and a purposeful commitment to bridging the physical and cultural divide of nearby Delmar Boulevard. He also volunteers with Mission St. Louis’ Beyond Jobs program, working to integrate men released from prison back into the community.
“Addressing relationships in our diverse community is very intentional for me,” he said. “I see such a need to change our community, and I feel like I’m having an impact.”