Augustans are bidding goodbye to Georgia State Representative Henry “Wayne” Howard this week, an icon among many and a man who carried on his family tradition of blending music and politics while being an example of rugged determination in business.
Howard died Oct.13 at the age of 67.
Tyrone Butler, executive director of The Augusta Mini Theatre and generational friend of the Howard family, says that Wayne Howard set out to be a success at an early age. As a teenager, Howard joined his father Henry L. Howard in the furniture upholstery business.
Butler says that Howard expanded the family business by opening a fashion boutique on Broad Street. The boutique became so successful, Howard would move the store a couple of blocks down Broad Street to a new location that was double the original size.
“He liked to dress up; he liked to look nice and that is what he sold back in those days, flashy shirts and bell bottoms,” Butler said.
Besides being entrepreneurs, the Howards dabbled in entertainment.
Henry L. Howard became the co-host of the wildly popular “Parade of Quartets” television show that was created in 1953 by WJBF Television owner J.B. Fuqua.
According to the show’s website, the Parade of Quartets is the longest running show of its kind in the nation and can still be seen each Sunday morning on WJBF.
The elder Howard also got into politics, becoming a state representative, while Wayne Howard focused on promoting entertainment in Augusta. According to his official bio, Howard brought B.B. King, Shirley Caesar, Grover Washington and Kirk Franklin to Augusta along with assisting with the Ringling Brothers Circus, Disney On Ice and the Harlem Globetrotters when they came to town.
Henry L. Howard died in 2006 and Wayne Howard took over the co-hosting duties on the Parade of Quartets. Howard also expanded the show to include more of a political edge in the programming.
Meanwhile, Howard’s stepmother, Ernestine Howard, ran unopposed for her late husband’s vacated seat, a move that would lead to one of the most unusual political races in Augusta history.
The following term, Howard ran for the District 121 seat against his stepmother and won. Howard would continue to hold a seat in the General Assembly until his death.
While Howard was known for his humble demeanor, he could be a fierce Democrat partisan behind the scenes. According to District 122 State Representative Jodi Lott (R), no matter how heated the politics could become, Howard always maintained his kind nature.
Lott also praised Howard’s wife, Cassandria Howard, for being her husband’s rock, especially when his health deteriorated.
“Every time I saw him at the Capital, Cassandria was with him, and she always had that bright smile on her face,” Lott said.
According to Butler, Howard was not going to let his poor health slow him down and even indulged in self-deprecating humor about being a double-leg amputee.
“We held a roast for him some years back and he laughed even when I roasted him about his disability. I said some lady told me that he must be here (for the roast) and she said ‘he must be walking around here somewhere’ and I replied ‘well, he may be around here, but he sure ain’t walking,’ Butler said.
Michael Meyers, political columnist for The Augusta Press, says the Howard family mentored him and fostered his own sense of wanting to be involved in the community.
Meyers says that when he was 13 years old, Henry L. Howard took him to Atlanta and had him work as a page. Many years later, Wayne Howard would take Meyers’ 13-year-old son to the Capitol to do the same thing.
“The entire family is about community service and Wayne helped lead the way from the time that he was a young man. If there ever was a community treasure, it was Wayne Howard,” Meyers said.
A celebration of Howard’s life will be held Thursday, Oct. 10 at 11:30 a.m. at the Bell Auditorium on Telfair Street.