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JEM Emeritus Professor Herb Howard Dies at Eighty-nine

Herb HowardJournalism & Electronic Media Emeritus Professor Herb Howard passed away on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at the age of 89. He is remembered as a legendary broadcaster and educator.

Howard, a native of Johnson City, Tennessee, was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 47 years, Alpha Day Howard, and one brother, Robert C. Howard.

He served 44 years as professor of Broadcasting and Journalism, 18 years as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, and one year as acting dean of the College.

Herb Howard earned his bachelor's and master’s degrees from East Tennessee State University. He did additional graduate study at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and he completed a PhD in Mass Communication from Ohio University in 1974. More information about his career can be found in the original alumni news release found at https://www.cci.utk.edu/herb-howards-funeral-arrangements-and-obituary. Those wishing to honor Herb Howard’s legacy with a gift to the college can do so by giving to the Herb Howard Endowment fund (HOWARD_H07)

George Devault (’71), Herb’s former student, president of Holston Valley Broadcasting in Johnson City and an emeritus CCI BOV members, gave the eulogy at Herb’s funeral. Here’s an excerpt from what George shared.

“Herb Howard was one of the kindest, gentlest persons I have ever known, and I knew him for 65 years. We both shared an intense love for radio and television broadcasting.

At an early age Herb was stricken with a rare crippling disease similar to polio.  It was while he was in various hospitals and bed-ridden at home that he listened to the radio ---- a lot of radio.  Even to the week of his passing he could tell you the history of just about every radio and TV station in the state and many, many outside Tennessee.  He knew what practically all of the call letters stood for.

By age 16 he had gotten his first part-time job at WJHL, his hometown station in Johnson City.  Due to his handicap, his father carried Herb into the station in his arms. That was in 1945 when almost all radio was AM or international short wave, but FM stations were beginning to appear in the Tri-City area.  Herb loved to tell a story about the beginnings of WJHL-FM.

By the fall of 1953 WJHL-TV was on the air shortly after an accident caused the station’s first tower to collapse.  Both the replacement temporary tower and the transmitter and studios were on Tannery knob near downtown Johnson City.  Herb spoke the first words heard on the station and became its first weatherman.  He also did general announcing and hosted a children’s program, which he had originally hosted on WJHL radio.”  

Larry Patrick (MS ’73), managing partner, Patrick Communications and CCI Board of Visitors member, who created the Herb Howard Distinguished Professorship in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, shared his thoughts about Herb’s passing.

“The thing that I remember the most about Herb Howard was that he always treated me with an interest in topics that I wanted to study.  He always took the time to ask the penetrating questions and to listen to my answers.  He helped me submit my first journal article for publication while still a graduate student.  It grew out of a research project that I did for one of his classes.

Many years after my time at UT, when I had purchased my first radio station group, I invited Herb to come to one of the stations and spend a week during the summer seeing what our team was doing and to make suggestions.  He chose to come to WJDX/WMSI in Jackson, Mississippi, our big news-talk AM and country FM.  He was like a kid in a candy store once again.  In early every morning, he helped improve our news product.  He asked questions of our 14-person sales team and is even today fondly remembered there.

He also was able to do some ground-breaking research on broadcast station ownership with me when I worked at the NAB.  We used that research with the FCC and on the Hill.   Herb helped the industry look carefully at ownership and its impact on the viewing and listening public.  He framed the industry’s policy initiatives in this area for years.

I miss him terribly and cried for several hours when I learned of his passing.  He was a giant in the world of broadcast teaching and research.  I was lucky to study under him, and then stay in contact with him for decades.  I will miss Herb the most as a friend.  He is why I have endowed a professorship in his name.”

Several other former students and colleagues shared their remembrances and thoughts in the document linked here.

Herb Howard TAB Herb Howard Professorship

Herb Howard presented Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Service Award presented to him by George DeVault in 2008.

Herb Howard with CCI Dean Mike Wirth at the ceremony announcing the establishment of the Herb Howard Professorship in 2013.

Herb Howard at Podium Leiter, Julian, Teeter, Howard

Herb Howard speaking at the 2013 ceremony.

Four CCI Legends – circa 2005. (L-R) Kelly Leiter, Faye Julian, Dwight Teeter and Herb Howard.