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Henry E. Howell, Jr. Papers

Collection ID: MG 1

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents: Record Group I: Accessions 1-5 The bulk of this record group deals with Mr. Howell's political career, first in Norfolk, Virginia, and, after 1968, on the statewide level as well. The specifically political papers deal with Howell's involvement in political campaigns and Democratic Party affairs. Most of this consists of correspondence, miscellaneous records and campaign materials from his own campaigns for office, especially those for Governor in 1969 and 1973, and for Lt. Governor in 1971. Most of the newspaper clippings, pictorial and sound records, file cards, and speeches concern these campaigns. The legislative material consists of correspondence and reference material directly related to Mr. Howell's legislative activities as a Delegate (1960-1962, 1964-1966) and State Senator (1966-1971). The legal papers consist largely of briefs and correspondence pertaining to Mr. Howell's "political" cases: suits the re-poll tax, legislative reapportionment, the use of federal impact funds, etc., as well as State Corporation Commission hearings and related court suits  regarding requests for rate increases by public utilities and insurance companies. The personal papers are largely personal correspondence unrelated to Mr. Howell's legislative and legal careers.

Scope and Contents: Record Group II: Accessions 6-7 This combined accession consists of correspondence (personal, legal, and political), legal materials and documents, gubernatorial campaign materials, legislative materials, audio-visual items, photographs, and memorabilia. The accession also contains materials belonging to Henry Howell’s wife, Elizabeth (Betty). Her materials mostly pertain to her service on the Norfolk City Council (1974-1992). Materials in regard to Howell’s political campaigns (1969, 1973, 1977 Gubernatorial Campaigns; 1971 Special Campaign for Lt. Governor) take up the bulk and these materials consist of press releases, campaign flyers and pamphlets, campaign operations and schedules, and speeches. Legal materials consist of Howell’s cases against C & P Telephone and the Virginia Power and Electric Company. Audio-Visual materials consist of film and audio recordings pertaining to Howell’s 1969, 1973, and 1977 gubernatorial campaigns. Some of the materials are copies from the Library of Virginia’s Henry Howell Audio-Visual Collection ( Memorabilia includes various plaques and awards depicting Howell’s service to the community and campaign items including bumper stickers, buttons, and signs.  Other items of note include a framed letter to Henry and Betty Howell, from Lady Bird Johnson, and printing plate depicting “how the Byrd machine works.”


  • circa 1928-1999, undated
  • Majority of material found within 1960-1978
  • Other: Date acquired: 11/04/1974



208.10 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Henry Evans Howell, Jr., was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on September 5, 1920. Mr. Howell married the former Elizabeth McCarty of Portsmouth and Crewe, Virginia. They had three children: Mary, Hank and Susan. Howell graduated from Maury High School in 1938. After attending the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary (now Old Dominion University), Howell entered the Law School of the University of Virginia. He graduated with an LL.B. degree in 1943. Howell first practiced law in West Palm Beach, Florida, but returned to Norfolk after several years. He served as law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Sterling Hutcheson and Albert V. Bryan, and in 1948 he became associated with R. Arthur Jett with whom he formed the law firm of Jett, Sykes, and Howell in 1950. He formed a new firm - Howell, Anninos, and Daugherty (now Howell, Anninos, Daugherty, and Brown) in 1959. Mr. Howell specialized in admiralty and tort law. Howell first became involved in politics during Francis Pickens Miller's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1949. In 1952 he served as co-manager in Norfolk for Miller's unsuccessful primary battle against Senator Harry F. Byrd. He later headed the "Volunteers for Stevenson-Kefauver" in Norfolk. Howell first ran for political office in 1953 when he was an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic primary for one of Norfolk's seats in the House of Delegates. His subsequent campaigns which made him one of the best known political figures in Virginia brought him his share of notable victories and bitter disappointments. His successes include election as a Democrat to the House of Delegates in 1959 and 1963 and to the State Senate in 1965 and 1967, and election to the Lt. Governor's office in 1971 as an independent. Howell's disappointments include a narrow loss for re-nomination in the 1961 Democratic primary in Norfolk, a loss to William C. Battle by less than 2% of the votes for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1969, and a razor-thin loss in 1973 when he ran for Governor as an independent against Republican Mills Godwin. Howell was always a "maverick" in terms of traditional Virginia politics. He was a liberal in a basically conservative state, pro-labor in a state which strongly favors right-to-work laws, a representative of an urbanized, industrialized district in a state legislature long dominated by politicians from rural areas - the remnants of the "Byrd machine." His survival as a viable political figure under these circumstances seems attributable to his avowed stance as a "populist," a champion of the ordinary citizen against the big economic interests and their political allies. One of his key slogans was "Keep the Big Boys Honest." In 1977 Henry Howell ran for the third time for Governor of Virginia. Howell waged his usual vigorous campaign. His opponent was former Attorney General Andrew Miller in the Democratic primary.Howell received 253,373 votes (51.4%) to 239,735 (48.6%) for Miller. Howell's primary victory was attributable to support by a coalition of liberals, urban voters, Black people and organized labor. These groups tend to vote heavily in Democratic primary elections. In fact their influence in Democratic primaries is out of proportion to their number in the electorate as a whole. Henry Howell appeared confident of his success against his Republican opponent John Dalton in the fall campaign. Once again, however, he experienced defeat. In what some analysts interpreted as a referendum on Howell himself, the voters gave Dalton a victory by 157,983 votes. Dalton received 55.9% (699,302 votes) to Howell's 43.3% (541,319 votes). Nonetheless, Howell remained prominent in the liberal faction of Virginia's Democratic Party and strongly supported President Jimmy Carter for re-election in 1980. Henry Howell died at his home in Norfolk on July 7, 1997.

Language of Materials



Henry Evans Howell, Jr. served in the General Assembly and as Lieutenant Governor (1971-1973). Unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Virginia three times (1969, 1973,1977). Bulk of the collection deals with his career in politics, first in Norfolk and, after 1968, on the statewide level. Documents Democratic Party affairs from 1948 through 1977. Also includes promotional audio and video clips created as part of Howell's campaigns for the Virginia governorship in 1969, 1973 and 1977. Included are radio and television advertisements, speeches and scripted television broadcasts.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into two record groups: Record Group I: Accessions 1-5; and Record Group II: Accessions 6-7. Each record group is further organized into series within each record group.

Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Honorable Henry E. Howell, Jr.

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A74-12

Accruals and Additions

Second accession: Gift of Henry Howell, Jr. 1976. Third accession:  Gift of Henry Howell, Jr., 1977. Fourth accession:  Gift of Henry Howell, Jr., 1978. Fifth accession:  Gift of Henry Howell, Jr., 1980. Sixth Accession: Gift of Mary Howell, 1998. Seventh Accession: Gift of Mary Howell, 2008.

Related Materials

Henry Howell audiovisual material related to his political campains can be found at the Library of Virginia.

Processing Information

The first record group was processed and finding aid created by James F. Walsh in 1974.

A Guide to the Henry E. Howell, Jr. Papers
James F. Walsh (1974); Special Collections Staff (1980); Kathleen Smith (2014)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 09099999: The finding aid was further revised by Special Collections and University Archives staff in 1980. The second record group was processed by Kathleen Smith, Special Collections Metadata Specialist, in 2014.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US