It was a shock Monday morning, Aug. 6, when the West Indian American Day Carnival Association announced the sudden passing of their president, William Howard—just a month away from New York’s massive annual Sept.1 to Sept. 3 carnival.
The WIADCA family said, “It is with great regret and insurmountable sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved president, Mr. William Howard. We send our condolences, love and support to his family and ask that their privacy be respected. His legacy in our community and within our organization has been impactful to many and will remain a beacon for many generations to come. Godspeed to a giant and a champion that worked tirelessly to keep the culture, contributions and legacy of Caribbean people alive.”
Tributes and condolences came thick and fast from all across the city, nation and Caribbean Diaspora.
A statement from Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte said, “William R. (Bill) Howard, President of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, known as the Labor Day Parade, was found dead in his Brooklyn home. He was 75 years of age. News of his death has shaken the political and nonprofit world and will lead to an outpouring of tributes of his legacy.”
William E. Howard Jr., son of the late William R. Howard, found Howard had died in his sleep. The coroner’s report indicated he died of natural causes.
“We are all devastated,” Howard’s family said in a statement through a spokesman. “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.”
The body was found not long after 5 a.m.
William E. Howard Jr. grew up in Fredericksburg, Va. He was a life-long friend of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. Howard served on the board of trustees for the City University of New York. He managed Shirley Chisholm’s personal finances, as well as the finances for her political campaigns. Howard was 23 years old in 1965 when then New York State Legislator Chisholm and her mentor and campaign manager, the late Wesley McD. Holder, asked Howard to be her campaign finance manager.
“I met four presidents through Mrs. Chisholm,” said Howard. “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. That changed my life entirely.”
Howard would go on to a celebrated career in business and government, including a stint as a deputy trustee in the Justice Department. He worked in a decades-long job as vice president for finance with the Equitable Life Assurance Society, where he was involved with making multi-million-dollar loans to various municipalities, corporations and individuals.
Howard also served on the board of Brooklyn’s Jewish Hospital (later merged with Interfaith Hospital Center), where he chaired the finance committee and once was president of the nursing school. In addition, he was a City University of New York board member from 1983 to 1995.
Howard served as first vice president of the Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute for Children and also participated in the former President Barak Obama’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony in tribute to Chisholm in Washington, D.C.
Funeral arrangements are forthcoming.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “I’m blessed to have had the honor to call Bill Howard a friend, an honor that so many of my neighbors across Brooklyn enjoyed over his many decades of public service. His 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. 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. I hope this year’s Labor Day Parade will be dedicated to his treasured memory.”