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ICON Awards 2020: Edward L. Dowd Jr., Dowd Bennett

Every organization I’ve ever worked with. I’ve ended up being a leader of it,” Ed Dowd says. “I like to get things done, and I like to help people that really need help.”

Edward L. Dowd Jr.There are, of course, the obvious ones: U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. Co-founder of Dowd Bennett, one of St. Louis’ most prominent law firms. President of The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis from 2017 to 2018.

Then there are the lower-profile but highly meaningful roles: president of the St. Louis Regional Crime Commission, a private nonprofit organization that aids victims of crime. His work with BackStoppers, which supports the families of police officers and other emergency responders killed in the line of duty, and CrimeStoppers, which offers confidential rewards for those who offer information to help solve crimes. His co-founding of St. Louis Bank in 2005.

Dowd said his approach stems from the example of his father, Edward Dowd Sr., who among many roles diversified the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office in the 1950s with the hiring of its first four Black prosecutors.

“I really learned from him how important it was to help people, particular victims of crimes,” he said. “He also always a huge believer in diversity.”

Dowd described himself as “probably an odd little boy who, if somebody would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I’d say I wanted to be a prosecutor.” He served as the top federal prosecutor in St. Louis from 1993 to 1999. During that time he won on every count in some 30 cases he took to trial, he said.

“I think when it’s time to really go after vicious criminals, I’m very good at that,” he said. “But I also know when you should give somebody a pass, when you should give them pretrial diversion and when you should work out something appropriate — drug court, veterans court, whatever is the right thing for that person and society.”

Dowd left the U.S. attorney’s office to assist former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth as special counsel in the investigation of the 1993 raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. After a stint alongside Danforth at what was then Bryan Cave, Dowd, along with law partner Jim Bennett, founded their current firm in 2006,

Dowd Bennett handles high-stakes and complex civil and white collar criminal cases and investigations, ranging from defense of a bank for its predecessor’s role in mismanaging a prepaid funeral expense trust, to representing former Gov. Eric Greitens, who faced criminal charges in St. Louis before ultimately resigning in 2018.

“We’re very good, I think, at doing the best we possibly can at every case and giving it everything we have,” he said. “Doesn’t mean we can win every case, but all 33 lawyers at Dowd Bennett — and I mean that, all 33 — give it everything they’ve got for our clients.”

Dowd comes from a long line of police officers, yet he said he also took part in protests earlier this year against police brutality.

“Every policeman that I saw, I said ‘Thank you for your service,’” he said. “The vast majority of police officers deserve our respect, and I do greatly appreciate their service.”