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Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
The Papers of Henry Evans Howell, Jr. MG 1
Henry Evans Howell, Jr., was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on September 5, 1920. His father was a lumber salesman; his mother, Susan Creekmur Howell, came from Deep Creek in old Norfolk County. Mr. Howell married the former Elizabeth McCarty of Portsmouth and Crewe, Virginia. They had three children: Mary, Hank and Susan.
Howell attended local public schools, graduating from Maury High School in 1938. After attending the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary (now Old Dominion University), Howell entered the Law School of the University of Virginia. He graduated with an LL.B. degree in 1943.
Howell first practiced law in West Palm Beach, Florida, but returned to Norfolk after several years. He served as law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Sterling Hutcheson and Albert V. Bryan, and in 1948 he became associated with R. Arthur Jett with whom he formed the law firm of Jett, Sykes, and Howell in 1950. He formed a new firm - Howell, Anninos, and Daugherty (now Howell, Anninos, Daugherty, and Brown) in 1959. Mr. Howell specialized in admiralty and tort law.
Howell first became involved in politics during Francis Pickens Miller's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1949. In 1952 he served as co-manager in Norfolk for Miller's unsuccessful primary battle against Senator Harry F. Byrd. He later headed the "Volunteers for Stevenson-Kefauver" in Norfolk.
Howell first ran for political office in 1953 when he was an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic primary for one of Norfolk's seats in the House of Delegates. His subsequent campaigns which made him one of the best known political figures in Virginia brought him his share of notable victories and bitter disappointments. His successes include election as a Democrat to the House of Delegates in 1959 and 1963 and to the State Senate in 1965 and 1967, and election to the Lt. Governor's office in 1971 as an independent. Howell's disappointments include a narrow loss for renomination in the 1961 Democratic primary in Norfolk, a loss to William C. Battle by less than 2% of the votes for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1969, and a razor-thin loss in 1973 when he ran for Governor as an independent against Republican Mills Godwin.
Howell was always a "maverick" in terms of traditional Virginia politics. He was a liberal in a basically conservative state, pro-labor in a state which strongly favors right-to-work laws, a representative of an urbanized, industrialized district in a state legislature long dominated by politicians from rural areas - the remnants of the "Byrd machine." His survival as a viable political figure under these circumstances seems attributable to his avowed stance as a "populist," a champion of the ordinary citizen against the big economic interests and their political allies. One of his key slogans was "Keep the Big Boys Honest."
Howell enjoyed more success against the "big boys" in the courts, both state and federal, than on the political battlefield or in the state legislature. He brought suits against the state's poll tax, against its appropriation of federal impact funds designed to go to various localities in Virginia, and against its failure to give urban districts their due representation in the Virginia General Assembly. He also frequently appeared as a spokesman for consumers before the State Corporation Commission to oppose rate increases requested by public utilities and insurance companies. In a number of cases he went on to file suits that eventually overthrew unfavorable S.C.C. rulings. His activity in this sphere continued during his term as Lt. Governor and after his return to private life in 1974.
In 1977 Henry Howell ran for the third time for Governor of Virginia. Although an underdog, Howell waged his usual vigorous campaign. His opponent was former Attorney General Andrew Miller in the Democratic primary. Although he out-spent and out-organized Howell, Miller met defeat. Howell received 253,373 votes (51.4%) to 239,735 (48.6%) for Miller. Howell's primary victory was attributable to support by a coalition of liberals, urban voters, blacks and organized labor. These groups tend to vote heavily in Democratic primary elections. In fact their influence in Democratic primaries is out of proportion to their number in the electorate as a whole.
Henry Howell appeared confident of his success against his Republican opponent John Dalton in the fall campaign. Once again, however, he experienced defeat. In what some analysts interpreted as a referendum on Howell himself, the voters gave Dalton a victory by 157,983 votes. Dalton received 55.9% (699,302 votes) to Howell's 43.3% (541,319 votes).
Many observers believed that Howell's landslide defeat would end his political career. Nonetheless, Howell remained prominent in the liberal faction of Virginia's Democratic Party and strongly supported President Jimmy Carter for re-election in 1980.
Henry Howell died of cancer at his home in Norfolk on July 7, 1997.
The collection ranges in date from 1948 to 1976. The bulk of the Howell papers deal with Mr. Howell's political career, first in Norfolk, Virginia, and, after 1968, on the statewide level as well. The specifically political papers deal with Howell's involvement in political campaigns and Democratic party affairs from 1948 through 1976. Most of this consists of correspondence, miscellaneous records, and campaign materials from his own campaigns for office, especially those for Governor in 1969 and 1973, and for Lt. Governor in 1971. Most of the newspaper clippings, pictorial and sound records, file cards, and speeches concern these campaigns. The legislative material consists of correspondence and reference material directly related to Mr. Howell's legislative activities as a Delegate (1960-1962, 1964-1966) and State Senator (1966-1971).
The legal papers consist largely of briefs and correspondence pertaining to Mr. Howell's "political" cases: suits the re-poll tax, legislative reapportionment, the use of federal impact funds, etc., as well as State Corporation Commission hearings - and related court suits re requests for rate increases by public utilities and insurance companies. They cover the period from the mid-l960's to the early 1970's. The personal papers are largely personal correspondence unrelated to Mr. Howell's legislative and legal careers. They contain some tax data but only up to 1958.
An additional accession of papers (approximately 42.25 linear feet) covering the years 1969-1977 was made in 1980. The 1980 accession is not included in this guide. Contact Special Collections for more information about these additional papers, an inventory exists but the papers are not arranged.
The papers are divided into twelve series:
Gift of Henry E. Howell, Jr. November 1974
The collection is open to researchers without restrictions. Questions about literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.
199 Hollinger Document Cases; 1 Hollinger Drop-front Print Box; total of 135.25 linear feet