Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Political Howe: John Junior Howe

Most if not all of the Howes of Carrollton, Kentucky, were political, I suppose. They paid attention to elections, supported their chosen candidates, and discussed politics within the family and the community. Our scrapbooker Sarah Eva Howe was writing about her own political opinions while she was still in elementary school!

In today's post, we learn about a Howe who ran for political office. His name was John Junior Howe. Some historians and genealogists misidentify him as John Howe, Jr., but family records and other writings clearly have "Junior" as his middle name. His parents, William Ficklin Howe and Louisiana "Lou" Winslow Howe, named him for William's father, the Irish immigrant John Howe (1823-1890).

John Junior Howe was born 5 November 1879 into the third generation of Howes to live and work in Carrollton, Kentucky. Maybe you remember seeing this childhood photo in the post about the "Highly Accomplished Family of William Ficklin Howe." Sarah mentioned him several times in her scrapbook writings, commenting about how well he did in school and how proud she was of his accomplishments. He was her first cousin, four years older than Sarah, and the brother of Sarah's cousin/best friend Jenne Howe.

I hope to find a lot about the grown-up John in my continuing journey through Sarah's scrapbooks. For now, most of my information about him comes from Google Books. (If you haven't searched for your ancestors at, give it a try. You might be surprised at what you find.) Combining family notes, magazines published online, and a bio included in History of Kentucky, volume 5 (pages 238 and 239), by William Elsey Connelley and Ellis Merton Coulter, I developed this profile:

John was one of nine graduates in the Carrollton High School Class of 1896. He graduated in 1900 from Kentucky Wesleyan College (then in Winchester, Kentucky) and received a master or arts degree there in 1903. He went home to Carrollton to "read law" at Winslow & Winslow – the law firm of his maternal grandfather William Beverly Winslow and uncle George B. Winslow. Eventually the firm became known as Winslow & Howe, a general law practice that listed among its clients the Carrollton National Bank, Carrollton Furniture Manufacturing Company, Jett Brothers Distilling Company, Adkinson Brothers Company, Howe Brothers, L&N Railroad, and Carrollton & Worthville Railroad. The Winslows and Howes had family connections with several of those businesses.

Like several of his relatives, John earned his law degree at the University of Michigan (1909). He was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

After that, John had a number of public service and political roles:
  • 1909 to 1911 – cashier of the City of Carrollton. 
  • 1911 to 1913 – judge of the local Police Court 
  • 1913 (December) – commonwealth's attorney for the 15th Judicial District, which included Boone, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, and Owen counties.
  • 1915 – traveled to Washington to offer his services to the Judge Advocate General. Apparently he was not called into national service, but he served on the Carroll County Draft Board.
  • 1916 & 1917 – president, Commonwealth's Attorneys Association of Kentucky
  • 1924 * – primary election candidate for U.S. Senate; campaign headquarters at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville. He named Ward C. Yager, county attorney of Gallatin County, to be temporary chairman of his campaign. At his undergraduate alma mater, Kentucky Wesleyan, students formed a “Howe for Senate Club” with membership exceeding 200. In spite of strong support from his home region, he lost the election.
Undated image courtesy
John was a leader in several local, state, and national Masonic organizations and a steward in Carrollton Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Somehow he also had time to serve as a director of Carrollton National Bank (founded as Howe & Son by his grandfather and father) and secretary of Howe Brothers (the retail store launched by his grandfather, father, and uncles).

His name was popping up in political circles when he was still in his 20s. By his 30s, he was elected to the post of commonwealth's attorney. Later he became a federal prosecutor.

When John was in his early 40s, his fraternity brothers were recommending him as the next governor of Kentucky:
. . . the Democrats of Kentucky still talk of electing a governor some time soon. And many of them mention the name of John Junior Howe (Michigan) when they talk on this subject. If they will take our advice they'll decide on Colonel Howe at once; they could not do better. He would wear gubernatorial honors gracefully and easily and perform gubernatorial duties fearlessly and well. Here's Howe! By the way, John Junior was elected prosecutor for the Fifteenth Judicial District of his state in November, for the third time and without opposition, as exclusively predicted by The Caduceus and everybody else.
The Caduceus, Volume 37 (Kappa Sigma Fraternity, 1921)

Was John all work and no play? Apparently not. Here's news from the same publication describing a "smoker" during the Kappa Sigma national Grand Conclave of 1921 in Chicago. It shows John in a different light. The writer assured his readers that no drink stronger than iced tea was served that Tuesday night (July 19, 1921) at the University Club, and that the evening was a resounding success with entertainment provided solely by Kappa Sigma members. "No professionals were present except the Hawaiian dolly which John Junior Howe presented to us with a flowery and flowing oration." (The writer goes on to report that the "dolly" was a professional singer.)

Based on what info I can find about John, he never married. He lived his entire adult life with his mother and two unmarried sisters, Lillie and Jenne. He died 29 July 1939 in Good Samaritan  hospital in Cincinnati. His death certificate reports cause of death as "aortic insufficiency with cardiac decompensation" – in other words, congestive heart failure. Like his parents and several of his siblings and cousins, he was buried at the Carrollton IOOF Cemetery.

A few months ago, while searching the internet for something else (isn't that always the way we find the best stuff?), I found for sale a collection of Howe-related ephemera. The collection included about 93 pieces – letters, telegrams, checks, notes, and other items. The seller's description pointed out that most of the correspondence was between John J. Howe and one of his uncles, Tennessee attorney Henry M. Winslow. Several of the letters were about John's unsuccessful primary campaign for the U.S. Senate. Many others concerned legal actions involving a ferry business in Ghent in the Winslow-Howe home county of Carroll (Kentucky). Those letters apparently included "some unflattering dialogue" about a family named Graham.

Did I buy that collection? Of course I did. I'll be wading through those letters soon, and I'll report anything that might be of interest.

In the meantime, if you run across a photo of the grown-up John Junior Howe, please send it my way. With so many other Winslow and Howe images popping up in the scrapbooks, family albums, and online, I can't fathom why pictures of John are eluding me.


* I confirmed the date on a website new to me: If your ancestors ran for political office, you might find information about them on that site, which invites submissions about  candidates who are not listed.

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