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January 9, 2008 > Stepfather adopts son 67 years later

Stepfather adopts son 67 years later

By Tyrell Albin

LAWTON, Okla. (AP), Jan 04 _ Harold Sowell didn't know who he was.

For his entire life, the Lawton man thought that his stepfather, David Sowell, had legally adopted him as a child. At the age of 67, he found out otherwise.

``Here about a month ago, they had this in the news about the driver's licenses,'' Sowell said. ``If you let your driver's license expire, you have to show a copy of your birth certificate.'' The requirement follows implementation of Oklahoma's new law to crack down on illegal immigration.

When Sowell was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1940, his birth certificate listed his last name as Matthews, his mother's maiden name. Because he couldn't provide documentation that his stepfather had legally adopted him, Sowell was unable to get a certified copy of his birth certificate earlier this year.

When Sowell started talking to his stepfather, he learned that he had never been formally adopted. David Sowell, who was in the Air Force at the time, filled out paperwork with the military claiming Harold as his son. That paperwork had been sufficient for most things he encountered throughout his life. He was even drafted into the Army under the last name of Sowell.

``I've been 'Sowell' my whole life,'' he said.

The issue of Sowell's birth certificate briefly surfaced when he got married in South Korea while serving in the Army. But his military paperwork satisfied all the necessary requirements to prove his identity and citizenship. It hadn't been a problem since then.

So on Dec. 21, David Sowell, 84, made it official and legally adopted the man he had raised as his own in Lubbock County, Texas.

``I was disappointed,'' David Sowell said, ``living all this time, I thought that what the military did was sufficient.''

The father said everything his son owns is under the 'Sowell' name, which presented a possible legal problem.

When the younger Sowell went to the Lawton Public Library and asked how old the oldest adoption record was. ``they looked it up and said 65,'' Sowell said. ``I've got that beat by two years.''

But while Sowell may unofficially hold a world record, he doesn't plan to try to get into ``The Guinness Book of World Records,'' since a lawyer he consulted told him the process would cost him around $600.

Sowell grew up in Lubbock and was stationed in Lawton for some of his service in the Army. When he left the Army, he moved to Lawton and sold cars at a local auto dealership before retiring. His two adult daughters were amused when they found out that he had never been legally adopted by the man he considers to be his father. His mother, Audrey, was married to David Sowell until her death a few years ago.

``I'm proud to have him as an adopted son,'' David Sowell said. ``He has been a good son up until adulthood. He's a workaholic.''


Information from: The Lawton Constitution,

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