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William Lorenza "Jack" Howard
36th and 38th Mayor of Monroe, Ouachita Parish

In office
Preceded by John Elton Coon
Succeeded by Ralph T. Troy

In office
Preceded by Ralph T. Troy
Succeeded by William Derwood Cann, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1921-04-23)April 23, 1921
Rocky Branch Community

Union Parish, Louisiana, USA

Died November 11, 2004(2004-11-11) (aged 83)
Monroe, Louisiana
Resting place Mulhearn Memorial Park Cemetery in Monroe
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) LaRue Jones Howard
Relations Brothers:

V. E. Howard
Alton Hardy Howard
Korie Robertson (great-niece)

Children Gene Howard

Robert J. Howard
Judy H. Howell

Occupation Businessman

Co-founder, Howard Brothers Discount Stores

Religion Church of Christ
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Battles/wars World War II

William Lorenzo Howard, known as W. L. "Jack" Howard (April 23, 1921 – November 11, 2004), was a five-term Democratic mayor of Monroe, Louisiana, who served from 1956 to 1972 and again from 1976 to 1978. He was a partner in the former Howard Brothers Discount Stores, which at their peak had eighty-seven outlets throughout the American South.


Howard was the fifth of seven children born in the Rocky Branch community near Farmerville in Union Parish in North Louisiana, to a Church of Christ couple, Elisha John "Hardy" Howard (1889-1974) and the former Corrine Smith (1888-1971). An older brother, Verna Elisha Howard, was a radio minister for more than four decades who in Texarkana, Texas, founded the International Gospel Hour. A younger brother, Alton Hardy Howard of West Monroe, was his business partner. Still another younger brother, Kelton Leroy Howard (1928-1994), died exactly two weeks after Howard's own passing.[1]

Howard served in the United States Navy during World War II. Prior to his election as mayor at the age of thirty-five, he had been a president of the Louisiana Jaycees and a vice-president of the national organization. He and his brother Alton operated Howard Brothers Jewelers in Monroe and in 1959 launched the first Howard Brothers general merchandise outlet in West Monroe.[2] Thereafter, the pair obtained the first Gibson franchise, the forerunner to the Howard Brothers discount chain stores. The brothers also had a Super Saver Wholesale Warehouse Club,[3] but in time they could not compete with Sam Walton's much larger Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, which opened stores in much smaller cities.[4]

Howard was heavily involved in activities of the Forsythe Avenue Church of Christ in Monroe. He was the chairman of the board of the Church of Christ-affiliated Harding University, then Harding College in Searcy in White County, Arkansas. He worked to develop the Ouachita Christian High School located at 7065 U.S. Highway 165 North in Monroe.[3]

Political careerEdit

City of MonroeEdit

As mayor, Howard threw himself into the tasks of municipal management. He pushed for development of the downtown Monroe Civic Center complex, easily accessible from I-Interstate 20. The complex includes the 2,200-seat W. L. Jack Howard Theatre, renamed in his honor in 2004.[5] Among many events, the theater hosts the annual Miss Louisiana pageant the last week of June.[6] Howard was the driving force for a new City Hall and the expansion of the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo into a major statewide attraction.[7] Howard pushed for construction of Malone Stadium, home of the Warhawks football team at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The previous stadium could hold just over 8,000; Malone, with subsequent expansion, nearly 31,000. Attendance at the games by those from rural areas and small towns served too as an economic boost to Monroe-area merchants and promoted regional unity.[8] Howard enacted massive street-paving and flood-prevention programs and expanded the fire and police departments. The city also purchased a riverboat during his tenure.[9]

Mayor Howard was an original opponent of school desegregation compelled by the federal courts. He sent a telegram to the state legislature, published in the former Monroe Morning World:

The white citizens of Monroe and Ouachita Parish are supporting you and the governor one thousand percent. Let's battle the U.S. courts to the bitter end and learn once and for all whether the state of Louisiana, its legislature, and its governor are going to run the affairs of our state or whether or not traitors like [Judge] J. Skelly Wright and a communist Supreme Court is going to take over and run our state. We are supporting you all the way and ask that no stone be left unturned in this all important fight to preserve our traditional way of life. If we lose this fight then we have lost it all. Keep up the good work.[10]

Howard became an informal advisor to his sister mayor, Bert Hatten of West Monroe, a newspaper managing editor and publisher. Howard and Hatten complemented the strengths of each of their cities.[11]

In 1972, Howard was unseated in the then closed primary by fellow Democrat Ralph T. Troy, a mortgage banker.[9] In 1975, while out of office, Howard was convicted of having used municipal employees for personal benefit; Howard pleaded guilty to one felony count and one misdemeanor count and was then pardoned by Governor Edwin Edwards.[12]

Troy did not seek a second term as mayor, and Howard returned to office in 1976. Unable to work with the two other city commissioners, Howard resigned as mayor in October 1978.[9] He was succeeded by the interim mayor, William Derwood Cann, Jr., a businessman and a highly decorated lieutenant colonel in World War II.[13]

Beset with flooding and a police strike, Conn did not seek the office in the special election which followed, and in April 1979,[14] Democrat Robert E. "Bob" Powell was elected mayor and served for seventeen years until 1996.

In 1992, two years before his death, Howard, still a Democrat, sought to unseat Powell; when he fell short with 36 percent of the vote in the first round of the nonpartisan blanket primary, Howard withdrew from the runoff election to which he was entitled, and Powell won his last term in the position.[15]

Presidential politicsEdit

In the 1960s, Howard was a statewide figure in presidential politics. In 1964, he strayed from his Democratic Party to support the Republican presidential nominee, U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who won the state's ten electoral votes but carried only six states nationally. Howard was among the Democratic defectors, which also included Lieutenant Governor C. C. "Taddy" Aycock and Louisiana Secretary of State Wade O. Martin, Jr., who attended a Goldwater rally at Tulane University Stadium in New Orleans. There Goldwater appeared with his senatorial ally, Democrat-turned-Republican Senator Strom Thurmond, who had won Louisiana's then ten electoral votes in 1948. Republican congressional candidagte David C. Treen, later his state's first ever GOP congressman and governor, was the master of ceremonies.[16]

In mid-December 1966, Howard sought the chairmanship of the Louisiana Democratic Party after the resignation of C. H. "Sammy" Downs, a former state legislator from Alexandria and an aide to Governor John McKeithen. Despite the support of both Downs and political boss Leander Perez of Plaquemines Parish, Howard lost the race by a vote of fifty-four to thirty-eight, to Edward M. Carmouche, an attorney from Lake Charles and a supporter of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson,[17] who was then still expected to seek a second full term in 1968. Ultimately, Downs, Howard, and Perez all supported the challenge waged in 1968 by George C. Wallace, the former governor of Alabama, who ran as the American Independent Party nominee.

Racial politicsEdit

The formerly segregationist Monroe city leadership had discouraged Martin Luther King, Jr., from bringing his civil rights campaign to Monroe, After the failure of the Goldwater and Wallace candidacies, Mayor Howard consulted with African American leaders in the city to develop plans to prevent civil unrest at a time during the 1960s when racial riots had struck a number of cities ranging from New York City to Los Angeles. Abe E. Pierce, III (born 1934), the first black mayor of Monroe who was elected in 1996 to a single term, recalls how Howard told business that the city had to desegregate to remove reasons for black unrest and to move ahead economically for both races.[18] The mayor's position is now held by Jamie Mayo, a native of Mer Rouge in Morehouse Parish, who was victorious in a special election in 2001 and won the first of thus far three consecutive full terms in 2004. He is the second African American in the mayoralty.[19]

Death and legacyEdit

Howard died in Monroe at the age of eighty-three. Unlike his parents and siblings, all of whom are interred at the Rocky Branch Cemetery in rural Union Parish, former Mayor Howard is buried at Mulhearn Memorial Park Cemetery in Monroe, alongside his wife, the former LaRue Jones (1920-2015), a native of Prescott in Nevada County in southwestern Arkansas. She was active in the Ouachita Christian School.[20] The Howards had three children, Gene Howard, Robert J. Howard, and Judy H. Howell and husband, Ronny.[21]

In addition to the W. L. Jack Howard Theatre, he is commemorated through the W. L. and LaRue Howard Religious Missionary and Educational Foundation at 207 Maison Drive in Monroe.[22]


  1. "Rocky Branch Cemetery records". Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  2. "Tuscumbia Gibson Center Completion Is Set for August", Florence Times Daily, Florence, South Carolina, July 16, 1970, p.6
  3. 3.0 3.1 Monroe News-Star, November 12, 1994
  4. Greg Hilburn, "Before Wal-Mart, area had Howard Bros.", Monroe News-Star, November 12, 2004, p. A6
  5. "Jack Howard Theatre". Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  6. "Former Miss Louisianas take stage: Pageant winners from past 50 years showcase talent at variety show". Shreveport Times, June 28, 2013. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  7. "About Us: Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo". Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  8. "John Underwood, "New Boys On The Block: From the day he's hired, a college football coach has two things in common with his predecessor—a belief he can do the job, a good chance he won't. Meet four fresh optimists," September 6, 1976". Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Gordon E. Harvey, Historic Ouachita Parish: An Illustrated History. San Antonio, Texas: Historical Publishing Network. 2007. p. 45. ISBN 9781893619708. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  10. "Telegram from Mayor Jack Howard of Monroe, Louisiana, to Louisiana State Legislature: "Ouachita Men Strongly Back School Action"". Monroe Morning World. November 14, 1960. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  11. "Bert Hatten: Neighborly relations remembered, 1998". The Ouachita Citizen. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  12. "Mark Henderson, Former Monroe Mayor Ralph Troy dies". The News-Star. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  13. "William Derwood Cann, Jr.". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, July 14, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  14. "Former Monroe Mayor Cann dead at 90". KATC-TV. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  15. "Our Campaigns: Monroe, LA mayor". Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  16. Glen Jeansonne, Leander Perez: Boss of the Delta, University Press of Mississippi, 1977, pp. 328-331
  17. "Wallace Backers Lose in Louisiana", Gadsden Times, Gadsden, Alabama, December 17, 1966, p. 1; Biloxi Daily Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, December 24, 1966, p. 14
  18. James O. McHenry, The Indigenous Black People of Monroe, Louisiana and the Surrounding Cities, Towns, and Villages: A 100-Year Documentary, pp. 180-181. 2010. ISBN 978-1-4535-8859-8. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  19. "Louisiana election returns, April 17, 2004". Retrieved July 7, 2013. 
  20. "LaRue Howard". Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  21. "William Lorenza "Jack" Howard". Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  22. "W. L. and LaRue Howard Religious Missionary nand Educational Foundation". Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
Preceded by
John Elton Coon
Mayor of Monroe, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana

William Lorenza "Jack" Howard

Succeeded by
Ralph T. Troy
Preceded by
Ralph T. Troy
Mayor of Monroe, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana

William Lorenza "Jack" Howard

Succeeded by
William Derwood Cann, Jr.

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