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The Influence Of Mrs. Marjorie Howard
10/21/2015 6:05:58 PM

By Barney Blakeney

While working on a recent project I had the opportunity to again read the story of Mrs. Marjorie Hutchinson Howard, the 103-year-old centenarian at Wesley UMC in downtown Charleston. I’ve known Mrs. Howard since back in the day at C.A. Brown High School. Reading about Mrs. Howard made me think about a lot of stuff.

The first was the joy of knowing her. At 103, Mrs. Howard is in church most Sundays. Just seeing here there is an inspiration. After many years absence, I just starting going back to church. I still find it amazing how some folks go every Sunday. ‘Mickey Lloyd’ Frasier is one. He says he doesn’t feel right if he misses a Sunday. I don’t make it every Sunday. Seeing Mrs. Howard when I’m there makes me wonder what is it that makes a person so dedicated.

I guess that kind of dedication comes with a person’s make-up. There’s a lot to be said for character. Thinking about Mrs. Howard made me ponder the importance of having good character. My mom used to say, “All you have to do is live. You’ll get old.” I’m learning that getting old and good character don’t necessarily go together. Many people of poor character get old.

Marjorie Howard ain’t one of them. Mrs. Howard’s life story is one that epitomizes productivity. Wesley historian Vivian Mitchell wrote how Mrs. Howard spent 43 years as a teacher having obtained a Bachelor Degree from Knoxville College and a Master Degree from Columbia University Teacher’s College.

I was at Brown when Mrs. Howard served as head of the math department. I used to run with the smart crew in the class of 1971. Mrs. Howard’s math lab was our hang out spot. Of course those cats could run circles around me, but I had enough sense to hang with the kids who could get it done. They helped me.

Mrs. Howard’s story made me think about how teachers influence so many people. Mrs. Howard had a lot of influence on the kids I hung with. One of ‘em, our graduating class valedictorian Sarah Ford, went on to become a math teacher herself. Sarah, who works in Columbia, could have done anything she wanted. She chose teaching. And although she could have retired years ago, she’s still in the classroom. She loves it.

Over 100 years of life you influence people in many ways, perhaps most often, indirectly. At Brown, I knew Mrs. Howard as a math teacher. I never took a class under her. But like most of the staff at Brown,m they were teaching us other stuff like building character.

Mrs. Howard once told me she’d hoped my association with her students would have an influence on me, but I was influencing them. It made me more aware of the impact our character has on those around us. As a result, I had to tighten up my game. Those were my friends and I wanted the best for them.

By my senior year I had decided I wanted to become a writer. I had an English teacher who helped me to believe I had some potential, but it was with the school’s student newspaper that I began my news writing. I didn’t realize until a few years ago, Mrs. Howard started the paper. She also had started the newspaper at Burke High before ours, and the first elementary school newspaper in Charleston at Simonton Elementary School before that.

I learned about Mrs. Howard’s role in those newspapers a few years ago as she turned 100. I learned she was a volunteer with the Charleston County Teachers Credit Union and for many years was Chairman of the Supervisory Committee. She’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. My cousin, Bernice Simmons Allen told me Mrs. Howard was in her water aerobics class until only a few years ago.

I guess you don’t get to be 103 without influencing a few people. And teachers! Well, they influence a lot of people anyway. But this lady, this Marjorie Hutchinson Howard, she’s special. As I said earlier she’s in church most Sundays. I wonder how she does it, why she does it.

I’ve had the experience of knowing some super people. It’s one of the better things about this job. It brings me in touch with some good people, some good influences. I may not reach 103. Heck, I may not reach 63! But I hope that however many years I get, I can do just some of what Mrs. Howard has done, influence a few people as positively as she has influenced so many.

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