Mr. James Williams Howard, the only son of the late Ernest Franklin Howard and Reedie Potts Howard, was born on January 19, 1929 in Huntersville, NC. Affectionately known by many as Pop Howard, James departed this life on the 26th of June 2021.
James received an excellent education in a Black public school system. He began his education at the Lytle Grove School, and he graduated from Huntersville High School. He was accepted at North Carolina A& T University and completed one semester. Impeded by scant finances, James decided to join the US Air Force. He completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. While serving in the Air Force, James received training as a medic. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force in July of 1948.
In his youth James attended Columbus Chapel AME Zion Church. However, once he was joined in Holy Matrimony to the late Dovie Houston Howard, in February of 1949, James joined his wife’s church. James became an active member of the Davidson United Presbyterian Church and remained so for more than 70 years. James and Dovie’s three daughters were raised in that church community. A faithful church member, Pop Howard served in several positions at DUPC. He was an Elder and was often the lay clergy who assisted the pastor or responded to the needs of his fellow congregants. Pop Howard taught Adult Sunday School and members of the class admired the hours he dedicated to preparation. He spent hours studying the assigned lessons, researching Scripture and writing his lecture. He was as prepared as any one of those professors he worked for at Davidson College. In 1985, Pop Howard joined the Davidson United Presbyterian Male Choir. Pop Howard’s falsetto voice was admired by many. Few tenors could carry a note higher than Pop Howard. Often, at church meetings, Pop Howard was the parliamentarian. When he declared order in his booming voice those in attendance “hushed up real fast”.
Although James did not return to the university after serving in the Air Force, he continued to learn. He was not only smart and adventurous, but James also had an inquisitive mind. For almost 20 years James was employed at Davidson College. Initially he was hired by the maintenance department and was responsible for cleaning the science building. Gradually, the Chemistry faculty recognized James intellectually skills and made him the department’s lab assistant, even allowing him to instruct students. During his career at Davidson College, James began to experiment with various chemicals and invented a pine oil based cleanser which was used by the janitorial staff. Unfortunately, James’s employers never credited him with inventing the pine oil based cleaner nor compensated him.
In 1968 James left Davidson College and became a mail clerk for the US Postal Services. A strong advocate of workers’ rights, James gladly joined the American Postal Union. He eventually became a Shop Steward and worked closely with Human Resource to resolve worker grievances. In 1997, James retired from the Postal Services. This gave James more time to devote to his third career as a Funeral Director. In the 1940s James had a car and he often chauffeured family and friends. He was hired as a driver by Cathy Hoyle Funeral Home, a white owned mortuary business in Davidson. Gradually James began to learn about embalming and different aspects of directing funerals. James decided to formally study and in 1967 he received the North Carolina Mortuary License as a Funeral Director. Throughout his career as a funeral director James was enrolled in continuing education courses. For instance, in 1979, James took courses at Mitchell Community College. In 2001, the Western District of NC Funeral Directors and Morticians awarded James a Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation. James worked as a funeral director for over 40 years, employed by both white and African American funeral homes. In fact, once he retired from the US postal Services James worked for W.H. Bryant Funeral Home.
Community Service was important to James and he worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for Westside residents. In the mid 1960s, the Town of Davidson refused to provide recreational activities for African American youth. Pop Howard and Castella Torrence established Teen Canteen in the DUPC Educational Building. James served one term on the Town Planning Board in 1967. He also decided to become a notary public, one of the first blacks in the area to acquire this position. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge from 1947 until his death. Pop Howard was the Grand Worshipful Master in his Lodge.
Pop Howard was preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 59 years Dovie Houston Howard, five sisters, Doris T. Orr of Gastonia, NC, Elizabeth Latimer of Augusta, GA, Mildred Alexander of Mooresville, NC, Ernestine Grier of Huntersville, Anna McKnight of Kannapolis, NC and his eldest daughter Rev. Brenda H. Tapia.
He is survived by two daughters, Cassandra A. Howard of Cornelius, NC and Beverly H. Bailey of Stonecrest, GA, two sisters-in-laws Bernice Houston (Ollie) of Davidson, NC, Ophelia Houston (Harold), Charlotte, NC, brother-in-law Gerald Potts (Nannie) and a host of nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family ask that a donation in memory of James W. Howard be made to:
Gracious Living Adult Day Care & Healthcare Center
P.O Box 2425
Huntersville, NC 28078
Brenda H. Tapia Family Foundation
8511 Davis Lake Parkway
Charlotte, NC 28269
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