March/April 2007 issue

In Memoriam: Judge George Howard


U. S. District Judge George Howard, of the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas, died on Saturday, April 21st. He was 82 years old. Judge Howard was the first African-American in Arkansas to become a federal judge.

George Howard was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1924. From 1943 to 1946 he served in the U.S. Navy. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas in 1953 and his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1954.

He then set up a practice in Pine Bluff, where he worked until 1977. From 1969 to 1977, he also served as the Chairman of the Arkansas State Claims Commission. In 1976 he was appointed as Special Associate Justice for the Arkansas Supreme Court. He was then appointed as a justice for the Arkansas Supreme Court and served in the capacity through 1978. He subsequently served as a judge for the Arkansas Court of Appeals from 1979 to 1980, when he was appointed as a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas.

Judge Howard presided over several high profile cases including some that resulted from the Whitewater investigation. They included the 1996 Whitewater-related bank fraud and conspiracy trial of former Governor Jim Guy Tucker and Susan and James McDougal, in which he ruled that President Clinton had to testify as a defense witness by videotape.

In 2005, he issued a “final judgment” in the long-running Vertac Chemical case - a 25-year-old lawsuit over the costs of cleaning up a polluted area in Jacksonville that Vertac abandoned in 1986.

Judge Howard is survived by his widow, the former Vivian Smith, to whom he was married for 60 years, and four children.