UM-DeSoto Professor Authors Book on Esteemed Accounting Educator

Howard Lawrence adds first full-length text to list of career accomplishments

After a notable teaching career, Howard Lawrence (left) has written a book with his daughter, Kelly Williams, about legendary accouting educator William A. Paton. Submitted photo

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Howard Lawrence, clinical professor of accountancy at the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven, has led an exciting career. He has taught in Thailand, led a community college and touched the lives of thousands of students along the way.

His most recent accomplishment? Finishing his first full-length book.

“William A. Paton: A Study of His Accounting Thought” (Emerald Group Publishing, 2018) was written by Lawrence and his daughter, Kelly Williams, who served as lead author. The text is a part of a series primarily published by Emerald Publishing that covers developments in accounting thought.

Paton was one of the most prolific accounting educators of his time, Lawrence said.

“I was really pleased to be approached about the book,” he said. “Paton was selected as the accounting educator of the 20th century by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He developed a great deal of how we think about accounting today.”

Paton was born in 1889 and lived to be 101 years old. During his career, he wrote more than 100 articles and was founding editor of The Accounting Review, which has become the premier journal for accountants.

Lawrence exchanged correspondence with Paton in the ’70s.

“In the 1970s, Paton was long since retired,” Lawrence said. “Although, he was still writing just as prolifically. I knew his son and brother; that’s obviously the link to why I was selected to write about him.”

Working with his daughter was one of the most enjoyable things about writing the book, Lawrence said. In fact, he knew he could finish the book by the publisher’s deadline only with her guidance and research abilities. Williams, who earned her doctorate from Ole Miss in 2018, is an assistant professor of accountancy at Middle Tennessee State University.

“It was her first book,” he said. “She enjoyed writing it. She’s actually interested in another writing project surrounding Mary E. Murphy, a little-known female accountant who was one of the biggest contributors to The Accounting Review.”

Williams appreciated the opportunity to work with her father.

“I have always admired my father a great deal, both professionally and personally, so being given the opportunity to work on this project with him was very exciting to me,” Williams said. “I have learned many things from him over the years and this experience was no different.

“Since it was my first book, he taught me a lot about how the whole process works. But by far, my favorite part was hearing about the interesting interactions he had with Paton and others in Paton’s life. My dad is truly a fascinating man.”

Lawrence began working at UM- DeSoto in 2005, following three decades of instructing at other institutions.

Surprisingly, accounting was not Lawrence’s first choice of profession. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Christian Brothers University in 1961. He began working for the paper industry as a design engineer and then for the steel industry as a plant engineer.

“While I was in the steel industry, I ran into issues where the accountants were pushing me around because I didn’t know their language,” he said. “I knew I needed to get some knowledge in that area. I began taking accounting classes at night and eventually ended up getting my master’s degree.”

Lawrence received a Master of Business Administration from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) in 1967. He also passed the certified public accountant examination as part of one of his courses.

Lawrence eventually left the steel industry for academia. It was during that time that he began pursuing his doctorate in accountancy at UM. He received the degree in 1972.

“I went to Nashville State Community College as president for nine years,” he said. “After nine years, I retired from the state and went to work for Christian Brothers teaching accounting. I stayed there for 20 years or so, retired and then I came here. I’ve been here ever since.”

In his spare time, Lawrence enjoys traveling with his wife, Judy, who recently retired from Christian Brothers as a professor of accounting and teaches at UM-DeSoto. Together they’ve taught some 20 times in Thailand, and a handful of times in Taiwan.

“We taught at Ramkhamhaeng University in Thailand, which is Thailand’s largest public university,” he said. “One of my former Ph.D. students is the dean of the accounting program, so he called me and asked me to teach a class.

“At the time, there were 12,000 graduate students on that campus. The university has more than 20 campuses. It was like a city on the campus where we taught – they have shopping centers and service stations, and even their own bank.”

In their other travels, the Lawrences have attended the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, with plans to attend the French Open and Australian Open. They have ventured to every continent on Earth except Antarctica.

“Judy doesn’t want to leave one off and I don’t either,” Lawrence said. “Our Antarctica trip is scheduled for December of this year.”

Lawrence truly enjoys being on the UM- DeSoto campus despite all his trips and experiences.

“I like the people around here and I like the students,” Lawrence said. “When I think about my career, what I would really like to be is on my students’ list as one of the five best teachers they ever had. That would be my goal.

“I know that sounds a little sappy, but I like what I’m doing and I feel like I’m contributing.”

For more information about Lawrence’s book, visit For more information about UM- DeSoto, visit