Post commander stripped of position after sounding alarm on Texas VFW leader’s intoxication manslaughter conviction

William Smith appealing three year ban from holding elected or appointed office within VFW

SAN ANTONIO – A commander of a San Antonio VFW post was stripped of his position last year after repeatedly alerting leaders of the organization that one of its state officers is on probation for intoxication manslaughter.

William Smith, former commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8541 and a past district commander for the San Antonio area, is prohibited from holding elected or appointed office within the organization through June 2025, internal documents obtained by KSAT Investigates show.

William Smith (right) inside VFW Post 8541. (KSAT)

He said the service group moved to take action against him shortly after he reached out to national VFW leadership and asserted that State Adjutant/Quartermaster Ben Lowrance should not be able to hold state office.

Lowrance, 40, pleaded guilty in November 2020 to intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle, Potter County court records.

The guilty plea was in connection with an April 2016 vehicle crash in Amarillo that killed a man.

A 10-year prison sentence for Lowrance was set aside in exchange for him serving five years probation, court records show.

Ben Lowrance pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle in November 2020. (KSAT)

In addition to probation, Lowrance was ordered to pay more than $7,400 in restitution and cannot consume alcohol for the duration of his probation period, among other stipulations, court records show.

“When they put a person in a position like that, with a felony, with my experience in law enforcement it throws up a lot of red flags,” said Smith, a 21-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department who retired in August 2016 at the rank of sergeant.

Smith said Lowrance was first appointed to the state quartermaster position, which essentially serves as the chief financial officer, before later being elected.

State VFW leadership interacts with state lawmakers and congressional leaders, which Smith said requires these individuals to “be above reproach.”

Lowrance’s VFW bio shows he was able to rise through the ranks of the organization, even after the fatal crash occurred.

Smith, a retired command sergeant major, who served three combat tours for the United States Army as a Green Beret, said the Texas VFW’s decision to discipline him instead of taking action against Lowrance has sent the wrong message to other members.

“We do more for veteran suicide in this VFW than any organization out there. And for them to do what they are doing to me, they’ve taken an organization that I truly believed in and destroyed it. Can’t sum it up any more than that,” said Smith, referring to his track record of service for Post 8541, located on Austin Highway.

‘Did he kill somebody? Yes. Murder somebody? No.’

Smith said strife between him and the VFW began in 2021, after another member sent state leadership a letter detailing concerns about Lowrance being installed in the quartermaster position.

Smith said Lowrance wrote a rebuttal letter calling the fatal crash an accident and stating that he made a “full disclosure” about the incident.

Smith conceded that he eventually raised concerns about Lowrance holding the position to VFW leadership and even expressed an interest in running for the same position, as he believed Lowrance was unfit to do so.

Smith was also accused of confronting Lowrance at a VFW event.

Two people later claimed that Smith called Lowrance a “murderer,” VFW documents show.

“Did he kill somebody? Yes. Murder somebody? No,” said Smith, who emphatically denied that he ever called Lowrance a murderer.

He said, instead, he encouraged Lowrance to step down from a leadership role while on felony probation and to be a stellar citizen.

Smith claims he even suggested that Lowrance return to the VFW after completing probation and help with anti-drunk driving messaging within the organization.

In August, Smith received notice from the Texas VFW that he was suspended from his post commander position, pending the outcome of an investigation into whether he publicly discredited Lowrance and targeted him with harassment.

In November, during a subsequent discipline hearing at a Leander VFW, Smith argued his side.

During the hearing Lowrance admitted to drinking while on community supervision, telling the assembled members it was between him and his probation officer, audio of the proceedings obtained by KSAT shows.

Smith was found guilty of two of the five administrative charges against him, internal VFW paperwork shows.

Smith is prohibited from holding elected or appointed positions within the VFW through June 2025. (KSAT)

He was found not guilty on two other charges and the fifth charge was dismissed, the paperwork shows.

Smith told KSAT he is appealing the leadership ban and has requested formal whistleblower protection.

“If the organization doesn’t change the culture, or if this organization doesn’t change, it’s not the non-profit for me,” said Smith.

Both Texas and national VFW leadership did not respond to multiple requests from KSAT seeking comment for this story.

Lowrance’s criminal defense attorney did not respond to a message seeking comment from KSAT.

An official with Potter County Adult Probation told KSAT last month Lowrance has no probation violations in his file and no motions to revoke probation have been filed in his case.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.