Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Joseph C. Howard, Sr. (1922-2000)
MSA SC 3520-12032


Born December 9, 1922.  Son of Charles Preston Howard and Maude L. (Lewis) Howard.  Raised in Des Moines, Iowa.  Attended the University of Iowa, B.A.; Drake University, LL.B., 1955; Morgan State University, M.A., political science.  Married Gwendolyn Mae London, 1955; son Joseph C. Howard, Jr.  Admitted to the Maryland bar, 1959.  Died  September 16, 2000.

As a student at the University of Iowa, Joseph C. Howard was the only black player on the university's football team.   When his coach used a racial epithet and then refused to apologize, Howard quit the team.  Later at Drake University, he became the first African-American student admitted to the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity.  After he moved to Baltimore and passed the bar exam, he founded the law firm of Howard & Hargrove with his brother, Charles P. Howard, and John R. Hargrove (who went on to become a U.S. district judge).  In 1964, Howard became assistant state's attorney in Baltimore and later became the first African-American chief of the trial section of the state's attorney's office.  In 1967 he became assistant city solicitor.  The following year he ran for a position as a judge on the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City (now called the Circuit Court of Baltimore City), and became the first African-American to run for and win a seat on that bench.  He challenged the racial hiring practices of the supreme bench and helped racially diversify the offices and employ minorities at the circuit court as well.  He served on the supreme bench until October 1979, when he was named by President Carter the first African-American to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.  In 1992, after Howard was diagnosed with Shy-Drager syndrome, a progressive failure of the autonomic nervous system, he took a reduced case load.  He died on September 16, 2000 in Pikesville at the age of 77.

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