Former Washington National Guard leader dies suddenly, leaves large legacy

Tim Lowenberg, who led Washington’s National Guard when its troops were deployed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has died.
Tim Lowenberg, who led Washington’s National Guard when its troops were deployed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has died. Courtesy

Retired Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg, who led the Washington National Guard as the state’s adjutant general when thousand of its citizen-soldiers served in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has died.

Lowenberg, who also served as state homeland security adviser, was 70. He suffered a fatal heart attack Sunday while tending the garden of his University Place home, said his daughter, Cathy Lowenberg.

Leaders in both the government and private sectors remembered Lowenberg on Monday as a committed public servant who served as a mentor to many.

“Tim Lowenberg’s dedicated service left an indelible stamp on the Washington National Guard and Washington state,” said former Gov. Gary Locke, who in 1999 appointed Lowenberg adjutant general. “Our state and nation owe him so much.”

Lowenberg, an Iowa native, lived in the South Sound since the early 1970s through a series of career turns, from Air Force attorney to private practice, law professorship and state government.

Since retiring as Washington’s adjutant general in 2012, he had worked at Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs and was a homeland security adviser for the National Governors’ Association.

“Tim was a special public servant,” said Tim Schellberg, the firm’s president. “At that high level, he was incredibly kind and committed like no other person I’ve ever met in public service.”

Schellberg studied under Lowenberg in law school and recalled his former professor as a consistently sage guide for younger generations.

As a law professor, Lowenberg devoted a class session every year to a motivational speech on how lawyers carry obligations to contribute to society. At Gordon Thomas Honeywell, he mentored junior employees on why considerate, professional conduct was vital to success.

“He was a leader amongst our team, particularly valuable and respected by the younger people in the firm,” Schellberg said. “He was always sharing perspectives on how to interact with people, including clients and others in the firm.”

Throughout his working life and 44-year military career, Lowenberg shouldered heavy responsibilities.

As the state’s top military official and homeland security advisor, he oversaw National Guard call-ups for overseas deployments and domestic assignments, including terrorist-watch duty at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

“As adjutant general, he stood up for our citizen-soldiers called on repeatedly to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “He worked to ensure they had the tools and funding they needed to carry out their mission overseas, and resources and support when they returned to their lives and families back home.”

Lowenberg served as a federal Department of Homeland Security consultant for nuclear detection and founded the National Homeland Security Consortium, a collaboration between 21 public and private agencies.

As a lawyer and law professor, he specialized in labor law and represented a number of unions, including the Pierce County Sheriff’s Guild and Washington State Patrol members in collective-bargaining negotiations.

He also won a three-week trial in 1991 that led to one of the largest jury awards ever given to a law-enforcement officer.

A state Department of Fish and Wildlife agent had been threatened during a 1988 family hunting trip, then was sued for false arrest by the hunter, a Carbonado man who had pointed a gun at him.

Lowenberg, who represented the agent, argued successfully that the lawsuit was a malicious swipe at the officer to avenge the confrontation.

Lowenberg had told the officer before trial not to expect much money even if victorious. Then the jury came back with a record verdict: $300,000, plus $50,000 for legal expenses.

Lowenberg and the officer, Mike Neil, remained close for the following decades. Neil is now the senior chaplain of the Washington State Chaplain Foundation, where Lowenberg serve as a board member and rewrote organizational bylaws.

“He was very steady,” Neil recalled. “I never, ever saw him get angry or speak a harsh word about anybody. He was, always, an incredible legal mind.”

Locke said that Lowenberg’s appointment as adjutant general surprised some observers at the time, because several other finalists had more experience.

“He quickly won people over,” Locke said. “He was just so smart and so dedicated, and he just commanded such instant respect. People just revere him nationwide.”

Lowenberg is survived by two sisters, his wife, Mary, and their daughter.

Monday would have been the Lowenbergs’ 49th wedding anniversary.

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally