Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Where Detroit's History Endures
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William A. Howard

Perhaps one of the most able 19th Century Michigan Representatives to the U.S. Congress, William Alanson Howard is a forgotten leader of Michigan history.

Born of a poor family in Hinesburg, Vermont in 1813, he was apprenticed at the age of 14 to a cabinet maker. Determined to acquire an education, he worked to pay for his schooling. He came to Michigan in 1840 and worked as a teacher and law clerk while he studied the law. He was admitted to the bar in 1841 and actively practiced law until 1854. In 1841 he married Jane Ellen Birchard, and they had seven children.

Howard was an ardent advocate of politics during his years in Detroit. In 1854 he was nominated for Congress by both the Whig Party and the newly formed Republican Party. He accepted the Republican nomination and was elected in the fall of that year. He was reelected in 1856 and 1858. He was appointed Postmaster of Detroit by his friend President Abraham Lincoln in 1861, a post he served until 1866. In 1869 he was offered the post as Minister to China by President U. S. Grant but declined for reasons of health.

In the 1870’s Howard became President of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. During this period he served on the National Republican Convention Committee and as head of the Michigan Convention Delegations of 1868, 1872 and 1876. It was during the 1876 convention hat he was instrumental in swinging the nomination to Rutherford B. Hayes, who was elected President.

President Hayes appointed Howard to the Governorship of the Territory of the Dakotas in 1878. Howard was inaugurated sixth Territorial Governor on April 12, 1878. He was an able governor and instituted many reforms that lead to statehood for the Dakotas.

Howard died while on a trip to Washington D.C. in 1880.

Born: April 8, 1813
Died: April 10, 1880
Buried: Section B, Lot 136