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He was characterized by his milquetoast demeanor, moustache, bow ties, and a penchant for philosophy and culture. Howard was a repressed Mother's boy who lived with his overbearing and manipulative mother, played by Mabel Albertson. (TAGS, "The County Clerk", episode #185). He appeared as the county clerk during the later color episodes of The Andy Griffith Show (and continued onto Mayberry R.F.D.). While Jack Dodson made an earlier appearance as an insurance agent named Ed (TAGS, "Lost and Found", episode 178), he first appeared as Howard in the sixth season (TAGS, "The County Clerk", episode #185.) This was not unusual on the show: other TAGS regulars were first introduced with different names: Hope Summers, who played Clara Edwards, first appeared as Bertha Johnson; Goober Pyle was first called Goober Beasley; and Arlene Golonka, who played Millie Swanson, was introduced as Millie Hutchins.
Due to his upbringing, Howard was socially stymied, especially when it came to dating. His mother even tried to thwart a double date he had with Sheriff Andy Taylor, Helen Crump and a nurse by feigning heart palpitations (TAGS, "The County Clerk", episode #185). Later, when Howard was about to join a men's social club, his mother manipulated Goober Pyle with a sob story in an attempt to blackball his membership (TAGS, "The Lodge", episode #192). Opie once said Howard threw a baseball, "just like Aunt Bee".
When his mother remarried and moved to Mount Pilot, Howard sought to metamorphosize into a swinging hipster (TAGS, "The Wedding", episode #246). Wearing a smoking jacket and ascot, his plain home became a mod bachelor pad, with threshold-beads, and floor pillows. In the episode "Howard's New Life", he tried to recreate himself by moving to a Caribbean island (St. Benedict's) to become a beachcomber. Bored, he soon returned to Mayberry and resumed his drab bureaucratic job.
Howard's brief love interest/fiancee on The Andy Griffith Show was Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka), a character who later dated Sam Jones (Ken Berry) on the spin-off series Mayberry R.F.D. Millie and Howard soon realized their incompatibility and mutually agreed to dissolve the relationship right before they were to wed.
Despite his awkwardness, Howard proved to be quite a sportsman. He caught "Old Sam", the much coveted legendary fish in Myer's Lake, thus antagonizing the town's seasoned anglers (TAGS, "Big Fish In A Small Town", episode #198). He also proved to be an excellent bowler, after joining Emmett Clark's bowling team and astonishing everyone by scoring a perfect game (TAGS, "Howard The Bowler", episode #224). Howard even parachuted from an airplane to appease a thrill-seeking lady friend (Mayberry RFD, "Howard's Hobby", episode #18).
Howard had two brushes with stardom. First he appeared on a television show performing his stand-up comedy act, which consisted of personal affronts to his neighbors and "one-horse" jokes about Mayberry, causing him to be temporarily snubbed by the townsfolk (TAGS, "Howard The Comedian", episode #216). Mayberry city council once sent him with Emmett Clark to a New York City TV station to promote traditional, small town values. Howard soon did a backspin and became an unabashed New Yorker, replete with a loud, paisley Nehru suit and hair bangs (Mayberry RFD, "The Panel", episode 6).
In the 1986 television movie Return to Mayberry, Howard was revisited (along with most of the surviving cast). In a funk about aging, the clerk was seen throughout the movie in various hues of hair color.