Friday, December 6, 2002

Obituary: Harold Howe II, commissioner of education


Served under Lyndon Johnson

By Rebecca Billman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
Mr. Howe


Harold Howe II, a former Walnut Hills High School principal who served as commissioner of education during the administration of Lyndon Johnson, died Nov. 29 in Hanover, N.H. He was 84.

Mr. Howe was put in charge of implementing the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which allocated federal money to public schools formerly supported mostly by the states.

This act came on the heels of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and aimed to motivate reluctant administrators to integrate school districts by refusing federal dollars to those districts that failed to do so.

Mr. Howe was not popular among some Southern educators, who derisively called him "commissioner of integration," according to a Washington Post article.

Mr. Howe was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1918 and graduated from Yale University in 1940. He became a teacher at Darrow School in Lebanon, N.Y., that year and held that position until he joined the Navy in 1942.

He served as a minesweeper captain in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans during World War II until his 1945 honorable discharge.

Mr. Howe joined the faculty of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., in 1947 and earned a master's degree from Columbia University. He became headmaster at Andover in 1950 and assumed the principal's position at Walnut Hills in May 1953.

Mr. Howe moved on to Newton (Mass.) High School in 1957, then to a position as superintendent of schools in Scarsdale, N.Y. He was recommended for the commissioner's position by John W. Gardner, then secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

He left the office in 1968, when President Johnson declined to run again, and joined the Ford Foundation as vice president.

In 1982 he became a senior lecturer at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education - a job he held until 1994. In 2000, the school named a student fellowship and chair in Mr. Howe's honor.

Mr. Howe wrote several books and articles, including Thinking About Our Kids: An Agenda for American Education in 1993.

He was awarded the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education for 50 years of service in education in 1994.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Priscilla Lamb, in 2001.

Survivors include two daughters, Catherine Short and Merritt Leavitt; a son, Gordon Howe; and five grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for early 2003. For information, call Harvard University's Graduate School of Education at (617) 495-0740.

E-mail rbillman@enquirer.com




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