State's First Black Federal Judge, George Howard, Dead at 82

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Apr. 23, 2007 11:45 am  

U.S. District Court Judge George Howard Jr., 82, of Pine Bluff, died Saturday at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. He was Arkansas' first black federal judge.
Howard gained nationwide attention as he presided over the Whitewater trials of Jim McDougal and his former wife, Susan, and Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who were accused of fraud and conspiracy in connection with a real estate investment in which former President Bill Clinton his wife, Hillary, had been partners. The McDougals and former Tucker were convicted of bank fraud in May 1996, but no criminal charges were brought against the Clintons.
He was appointed a federal judge for the Eastern and Western districts of Arkansas in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter.
Born in Pine Bluff on May 13, 1924, Howard's discrimination experiences in the Navy in World War II led him to become a lawyer. After the war, he completed high school, graduated with honors from the pre-law program at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., and then entered the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, becoming the first black student to reside in campus housing there. He earned his law degree in 1954 and returned to Pine Bluff to open a private legal practice.
Howard was appointed by then Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller to the state Claims Commission in 1967 and served until 1977, when then Gov. David Pryor appointed him as a state Supreme Court justice.
In 1979, then Gov. Clinton named him as a state Court of Appeals judge. Howard remained in that post until he was appointed to be a federal judge by Carter. All three judicial appointments were the first for a black in Arkansas.
The funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at New Town Baptist Church. Burial will follow in Graceland Cemetery by P.K. Miller Mortuary of Pine Bluff. Visitation will be Friday from 7-8 p.m. at the funeral home.
The family asks that contributions be made to the George Howard Junior Scholarship Fund at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.



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