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Subject: Harold Howe II, Fighter Against Segregated Schools

dead at 84
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Date Posted: December 04, 2002 3:06:27 EDT

Harold Howe II, who as the chief federal educator in the Johnson administration led the growing federal involvement in public schools, died last Saturday at a retirement home in Hanover, N.H. He was 84 and most recently lived in Concord, Mass.

Mr. Howe was in the forefront of efforts to combat social ills at the school level. Among his targets were poverty and racial segregation.

As United States commissioner of education from 1966 to 1968, Mr. Howe was a driving force in the Great Society campaign to abolish segregation under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Among segregationist Southern legislators, who fought to keep the matter local, his sobriquet was U.S. commissioner of integration.

He took the assignment in January 1966, succeeding Francis Keppel in one of the fastest-growing jobs in Washington. He reported to John W. Gardner, the secretary of health, education and welfare, and was responsible for a sprawl of federal programs.

A former administrator of both public and private schools, he monitored college scholarships, teaching practices and curriculums as well as segregation.

He started by setting minimum integration goals that school districts had to meet to qualify for some of the billions of federal dollars the law made available. He also set strict deadlines and verification procedures that Secretary Gardner amended in the face of Southern resistance.

Mr. Howe used the leverage of federal aid beyond the South, including in major systems like Chicago's. He paid particular attention to the education and status of teachers and school administrators.

His view of segregation reflected his upbringing. Harold Howe II was born in Hartford, a son of the Rev. Arthur Howe, a professor at Dartmouth College and president of the Hampton Institute in Virginia. His grandfather Samuel Chapman Armstrong was a Union general during the Civil War and founded Hampton as a trade school for freed slaves. Young Harold grew up at Hampton, developing an easy relationship with young blacks, along with a missionary streak and a lifelong concern for equal education opportunities.

He was a 1940 history graduate of Yale University, where he excelled in sports, and he started teaching history at a private school. In World War II, he skippered a Navy minesweeper.

He then taught history and coached ice hockey at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and in 1947 received a master's degree in history at Columbia University. He also did postgraduate work in education at Harvard University and the University of Cincinnati.

He was a high-school principal in Andover, Cincinnati and Newton, Mass., before moving to Scarsdale, N.Y., as superintendent of schools from 1960 to 1964.

He then directed the Learning Institute of North Carolina for Gov. Terry Sanford, who founded it as an experiment for black and white children. At the time he also was an adjunct professor at Duke University.

When Mr. Gardner, who had been active in the Scarsdale PTA, became the secretary of health, education and welfare, he prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson to name Mr. Howe to the education post.

After leaving Washington, Mr. Howe worked for the Ford Foundation as an adviser in India and as vice president for education in New York until 1981. From then until his retirement in 1994, he was a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Mr. Howe's wife of 61 years, Priscilla Lamb Howe, died last year. He is survived by two daughters, Catherine A. Short of Lee, N.H., and Merrill H. Leavitt of Denver; a son, Gordon A., of Perth, Australia; a sister, Alice Austin of Missoula, Mont.; two brothers, Arthur Howe Jr. of Essex, Conn., and Richard Howe of Gardiner, Wash.; and five grandchildren.

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