Henry Howell

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Henry Howell
Film still from Breakfast with Henry Howell, 1969
31st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
In office
1971 – January 12, 1974
GovernorA. Linwood Holton, Jr.
Preceded byJ. Sargeant Reynolds
Succeeded byJohn N. Dalton
Virginia Senate, District 2
In office
1966–1971
Succeeded byHerbert H. Bateman
Virginia House of Delegates
In office
1960 – 1962, 1964 – 1966
Personal details
BornSeptember 5, 1920
Richmond, Virginia
DiedJuly 7, 1997(1997-07-07) (aged 76)
Norfolk, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic Party
ProfessionAttorney
 
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Henry Howell
Film still from Breakfast with Henry Howell, 1969
31st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
In office
1971 – January 12, 1974
GovernorA. Linwood Holton, Jr.
Preceded byJ. Sargeant Reynolds
Succeeded byJohn N. Dalton
Virginia Senate, District 2
In office
1966–1971
Succeeded byHerbert H. Bateman
Virginia House of Delegates
In office
1960 – 1962, 1964 – 1966
Personal details
BornSeptember 5, 1920
Richmond, Virginia
DiedJuly 7, 1997(1997-07-07) (aged 76)
Norfolk, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic Party
ProfessionAttorney

Henry Evans Howell, Jr. (September 5, 1920 – July 7, 1997), nicknamed "Howlin'" Henry Howell, was an American politician from the U.S. state of Virginia. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in both houses of the state legislature, was elected the 31st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia as an Independent, and made several runs for Governor.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Howell grew up in Norfolk. He earned an undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia. He first got involved in politics in 1949, campaigning for gubernatorial candidate Francis Pickens Miller against John S. Battle, the favored candidate of the Byrd Organization, the state's political machine, in the Democratic primary. Battle defeated Miller in the primary and went on to win the general election. In 1952, Howell managed Miller's campaign against incumbent U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, the leader of the political machine, a campaign that Miller also lost.

The following year, Howell ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, but lost the election. In 1959, he was elected to the seat, but lost a campaign for re-election in 1961. He reclaimed the seat two years later in 1963 and was elected to a seat in the Virginia State Senate in 1965.

A fiery populist, Howell assailed Big Business, particularly banks, insurance companies, and monopolies. A favorite target was Dominion Virginia Power, then known as VEPCO, which Howell claimed stood for "Very Expensive Power Company." A supporter of civil rights for African Americans, Howell campaigned against massive resistance, was a major proponent of desegregation, and filed a successful lawsuit to abolish the state's poll tax. A believer in the right to organize, he often attempted to repeal Virginia's right-to-work law.

In 1969, Howell made his first run for Governor, challenging former Ambassador William C. Battle, son of former Governor John S. Battle, for the nomination. Battle won the primary, and went on to lose the election to A. Linwood Holton, Jr., the first Republican Governor since Gilbert Walker, who served until the end of 1973.

When popular Lieutenant Governor J. Sargeant Reynolds died in 1971, Howell entered the race to fill the remaining two years of his term. Running as an Independent, Howell campaigned on a promise to "Keep the Big Boys Honest" (a slogan he would retain in later campaigns). On Election Day, he received 362,371 votes (40%), compared to 334,580 votes (37%) for Democrat George J. Kostel and 209,861 votes (23%) for Republican George P. Shafran.

In 1973, Howell made his second run for Governor, this time as an Independent.[1] The state Democratic Party ran no candidate and the Republicans nominated former Governor Mills Godwin, a conservative Democrat who had chaired an organization called "Democrats for Nixon" in 1972.

The Virginian-Pilot described Howell's campaign as follows: "He rumbled from one remote country store to another in a loudspeaker-equipped camper blaring hillbilly music...He staged rallies with the trappings of revival tent meetings - live music, cardboard buckets for campaign offerings, and the candidate himself calling on the faithful to 'witness' for his cause with their votes."

On Election Day, Godwin won with 525,075 votes (50.72%) to Howell's 510,103 votes (49.28%), a narrow margin of 15,000 votes. Garrett Epps, a reporter for the Richmond Mercury, would later write a fictionalized account of the race, entitled The Shad Treatment. Howell would later describe the 1973 campaign as "the high point" of his life.

In 1977, Howell made his final run for elective office, campaigning for Governor as a Democrat. Although former State Attorney General Andrew Miller, his chief primary opponent and (ironically) son of Francis Pickens Miller, outspent him by a margin of 3-to-1, Howell defeated him in the primary with 253,373 votes (51%) and went on to lose the general election, taking 541,319 votes (43%) to Republican Lieutenant Governor John N. Dalton's 699,302 votes (56%).

After losing the election, Howell retired to Norfolk, dying of natural causes on July 7, 1997.

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Senate of Virginia
Preceded by
newly created seat
Virginia Senate, District 2
1966–1971
Succeeded by
Herbert H. Bateman
Political offices
Preceded by
J. Sargeant Reynolds
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
1971 – 1974
Succeeded by
John N. Dalton