Howard was a longtime community leader, and a valued friend and senior campaign staff member for Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.
William “Bill” R. Howard, president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), also known as the Labor Day Parade, passed early Sunday morning in his Brooklyn home. He was 75 years old.
“We are all devastated,” Howard’s family said through a spokesperson. “We loved Bill dearly and will miss him terribly. We would ask that our privacy is respected as we grieve during this very difficult time.”
William R. Howard grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A life-long friend of Rep. Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black congresswoman, he was just 23 years old in 1965 when Chisholm, then a state legislator, asked Howard to be her campaign finance manager.
“I met four presidents through Mrs. Chisholm: Both Bushes [George H. W. and George W], President Jimmy Carter and President Clinton, Robert Kennedy, the entire U.S. Supreme Court, anyone who was anybody in Washington, D.C., came by to shake Chisholm’s hand,” said Howard. “That changed my life entirely.”
Howard would go on to a celebrated career in business and government, including positions as vice president for finance at the Equitable Life Assurance Society, deputy trustee in the U.S. Justice Department, and serving on the boards of Brooklyn’s Jewish Hospital and the City University of New York.
Howard also served as First Vice President of the Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute for Children and participated in the President Barack Obama’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony in tribute to Congresswoman Chisholm in Washington, DC.
News of his death has shaken the political and nonprofit world and has lead to an outpouring of tributes of his legacy.
“Godspeed to a giant and a champion that worked tirelessly to keep the culture, contributions and legacy of Caribbean people alive,” read a statement from the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. “His legacy in our community and within our organization has been impactful to many and will remain a beacon for many generations to come.”
Borough President Eric Adams said he feels blessed to have had the honor to call Bill Howard a friend.
“Bill’s legacy will forever be tied with that of the great Representative Shirley Chisholm, as well as that of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association,” said Adams. “Bill’s leadership and guidance were indispensable to both of these true Brooklyn institutions, as was his role in strengthening the welfare and unity of the borough’s diverse African-American and Caribbean-American communities. I am a better public servant and more importantly a better man, for knowing him and receiving his incalculable counsel.”
Councilmember Laurie Cumbo remembered Howard as a fierce Brooklyn leader.
“It is his shoulders upon which we stand as we do our part in building a better Brooklyn and honoring Caribbean culture and community, which so deeply enriches the fabric of our entire city,” said Cumbo. “We are greatly indebted to Bill for his tremendous work and should honor him by proudly and boldly carrying his legacy of service forward.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.