Howard Anthony James
Who is this character who has chosen, after sixty years in television and newspapers, to depart from his comfort zone and venture out as a blogger on the internet?
Why doesn’t he just retire and watch TV, putter around the house, go fishing or grow tomatoes as so many others do after they have wrapped up a fairly long and successful career?
Is he restless? Absolutely. He finds sitting around extremely unpleasant.
Is he also doing this because of ego? To a substantial degree. There are too many topics he believes the public should know about not being covered by today’s newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations. There is reporting to do on subjects being ignored.
Could it be his wide range of interests? Without question. Name a topic and James probably would like to know more about it.
Or is it his love for and pride in America. Absolutely. He finds himself irritated, even disgusted when people without a clue put our country down. He understands that President Barack Obama didn’t grow up in America and had a father from Kenya who verbally bashed America. Obama also says in his book he was friends with Marxists. Now, when Obama and others say or do things that denigrates our country James grows deeply unhappy.
Perhaps the fact Howard Anthony James was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1968 is the right place to start in discussing his career. The Pulitzer rather clearly identifies him as a fairly serious journalist who has spent a lifetime gathering and reporting news.
He also was, at the age of 36, awarded an honorary doctorate from his Alma Mater, Michigan State University for his “lifetime work.” The American Bar Association presented him with two silver gavels for his reporting on the courts and the juvenile justice system. He also headed up one section of the 1970 White House Conference on Children.
He credits this recognition to hard work and refusal to be intimidated by those who did not want his effort to uncover wrongdoing to be published.
James began working when he was very young. His grandfather, a country doctor, died during the pandemic of 1918. His grandmother, a graduate of the University of Iowa, was a nurse. She lost everything in the great depression and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law.
Because, as a teacher, Howard’s father had limited income, his mother-in-law helped in a variety of ways. She would root African violets in damp sand and she
would crochet hot pads. Howard would go door to door, selling the plants and hot pads when he was five or six.
Like so many others, James had a paper route as a child. While his father, Howard Sr., was in the South Pacific, fighting the Japanese, (including the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa), James, at the age of seven, began delivering newspapers in Moline, Illinois. After the war, when his father began teaching in Elkhart, Indiana, James delivered the Chicago Tribune every morning.
At the age of 15 he switched from delivering newspapers to delivering refrigerators, stoves and other kitchen equipment for Borneman’s hardware. Later he worked after school unloading boxcars and as well as working on the production line from 3:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. at a Whitehall Pharmaceutical Company.
While in high school in Elkhart, he took a three year class that involved radio broadcasting. His start in television was in the summer of 1954, when his home town television station, WSJV-TV, hired him for a summer on-the-air job after he finished his freshman year at Michigan State University.
While at Michigan State he worked at Schaffers Bakery from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. and carried a full college schedule. Later he commuted to WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, then worked for WJIM- TV and radio in Lansing reporting, writing and reading the first local newscast at 6:00 a.m. every morning.
He also was elected class president twice.
During his junior year in college, in 1956, he was hired as the news anchor at WDMJ-TV in Marquette, Michigan, the first television station in the Upper Peninsula. James signed the station on the air, then later returned to East Lansing to graduate from Michigan State.
After graduation he launched his own television news service, working out of the capitol building, serving WWJ-TV in Detroit, WXYZ radio in the motor city, WJRT-TV in Flint, and WOOD in Grand Rapids.
Growing disenchanted with the egotism he found in television, he returned to Marquette to report for the local daily newspaper and soon was hired as a reporter by the Chicago Tribune. In 1963 he left the Tribune and bought a pickup and slide-in camper and headed west to produce a film on the Continental Divide, traveling through the Navajo and Zuni reservations.
In 1965 he became Midwest Bureau Chief of the Christian Science Monitor, responsible for coverage of 19 states. His assignments included going to Selma, Alabama, where Dr. Martin Luther King was attempting to end racial discrimination.
It was while he was at the Monitor he won the Pulitzer for a series that became a hard cover book, “Crisis in the Courts”. The following year he produced another major Monitor series, “Children in Trouble,” which also was picked up by the same New York book publisher.
The following year John Hughes was named editor of the Christian Science Monitor. Among other things he told James he opposed James’ involvement in the White House Conference on Children. During that phone conversation James resigned his Monitor post.
Instead James accepted an offer from Film Producer Lazar Wechsler to spend a year working in Switzerland, where Wechsler lived.
When James returned to the United States he traveled the nation again in a pickup truck and camper and produced a third book, “The Little Victims” – a report on how many States were mistreating special needs children.
“The Little Victims” was to run as a Monitor series with no expense to the paper. The book publisher, David McKay, tried to run ads in the Monitor, but Hughes was opposed to both. James then concluded that his decision to resign was the right one.
In 1972 James married a widow with four children. His new wife, Judy Vogel Munro, owned a weekly newspaper in Berlin, New Hampshire. James had an adopted son, who was five at the time, and Judy then presented Howard with another son, so he was soon raising six children.
James then bought several weekly newspapers of his own in New Hampshire and Maine and remained in the small town newspaper business until 2005 when he
sold his newspapers. Instead of retiring, he accepted a position as editorial page editor of the North Port (Florida) Sun.
Now he has purchased a used motor home and you can follow his travels throughout America.
“It was what I intended to do in 2005 when I sold my papers. My mistake was to buy a 35 foot long fifth wheel trailer and a crew cab truck. Hooked together, it was as if I was driving an 18-wheeler. That was more work than fun, but it also increased my admiration for the nation’s truckers. They have a tough job.”
James finds his 27 foot Class C motor home easier to drive and manage.