Monday, October 31, 2016


(August 21, 1922 - October 30, 2016)

NOVEMBER 5, 2016
4:00 P.M.

NOVEMBER 5, 2016


Gerald Allen “Boots” Howell was born August 21, 1922, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and died peacefully in his home in the same city October 30. He graduated from Philadelphia High School in 1940, received a BS in engineering from Mississippi State University in 1944, and was a U. S Army First Lieutenant 1944-1946. For most of his working life he was the co-owner of B. L. Howell and Sons Construction Company in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Building highlights with B. L. Howell and Sons include Conner Hall at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi; Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi; The Downtowner and Ramada Inns in Meridian, Mississippi; The Downtowner Inn in Vicksburg, Mississippi; faculty housing, Holmes Community College, Goodman, Mississippi; Parkway School in Meridian, Mississippi; Hazlehurst High School, Hazlehurst, Mississippi; Louisville High School, Louisville, Mississippi; Quitman High School, Quitman, Mississippi; Newton High School, Newton, Mississippi; Louisville Vocational Center, Louisville, Mississippi; Calhoun County Medical Clinic, Calhoun City, Mississippi; Montfort Jones Memorial Hospital additions, Kosciusko; Mississippi; Vaiden Community Living Center, Vaiden, Mississippi; Scooba Family Medical Clinic, Scooba, Mississippi; Mississippi Care Center of DeKalb, Mississippi; REA Office Center, Oxford, Mississippi; REA Office Center, Philadelphia, Mississippi, REA Office Center, Carthage, Mississippi; multi-story parking garages, Vicksburg, Mississippi; Five Flags Inn Motel, Pensacola, Florida; East Mississippi Power Association TVA building, Oxford, Mississippi; St. Francis Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, Mississippi; and several homes, along with additions to businesses, schools, and hospitals across the state. Notably, B. L. Howell and Sons Construction Company was the first construction company in Mississippi to use pre-stress, post-tension concrete. Boots also worked as a construction manager for Hyde Brothers Lumber Company in Clarksdale, Mississippi in the 1970s; was a consulting engineer for Phelps Dodge and Wire and Cable Company in Starkville, Mississippi in the 1970s and 1980s; facility manager at the Choctaw Health Center, and project manager at Chata Construction Company both in Choctaw, Mississippi, in the 1980s and 1990s; and was the project estimator for McClain Plumbing in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in the 1990s and 2000s. While at Chata he supervised the building of Choctaw Manufacturing Enterprise in Carthage, Mississippi; the Manufacturing Building for Choctaw Electronics in DeKalb, Mississippi, and the Choctaw Senior Citizen’s Center in Choctaw, Mississippi. In the 1950’s Boots was approached by the NASA engineer Werner von Braun to work for NASA at their aeronautic space center in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

In high school Boots lettered in football, boxing, and track. In college he lettered for three years as a high jumper. He played French horn in the Philadelphia High School band and trumpet in the school’s orchestra. He, his father, and brothers were charter members in the first community band in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Boots was president of the Philadelphia Rotary Club for several years in the 1960s, and was on the Board of Directors for the Neshoba County Fair, 1967-2000. He was the Master of Ceremonies for performance programs at the fair for much of that time and was the fair’s talent scout and booking agent between 1967 and 1975. On a personal note he was a second cousin and friend of Turner Catledge, who was the managing editor of the New York Times (1952-1964). Boots was also an avid amateur inventor and two of his many passions include the life and work of Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current; and the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Boots is noted for his involvement in the Mississippi Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Some of the positive action he took during that time are recorded in two books, Witness in Philadelphia, by Florence Mars (published by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1977) and We Are Not Afraid, by Seth Cagin and Philip Dray (published by MacMillan, New York, 1988), as well as several newspaper articles, and short film documentaries.

He is survived by his wife, Millicent Merritt Howell, born in Meridian, Mississippi in January 13, 1927. They were married in 1951 at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Oxford, Mississippi. Boots and Millie have three sons: Mark Harold Howell, born July 11, 1952; David Tucker Howell, born January 11, 1954; John Gerald Howell, born August 9, 1966; and one daughter: Shawn Elizabeth Howell Byars, born May 21, 1956. All were born in Philadelphia, Mississippi. His grandsons include Casey Byars, born June 6, 1981, and Cassidy Byars, born April 28, 1987, both born in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

His father was Benjamin Lewis, born in Braxton, Mississippi in 1880, a building contractor. And his mother was Janie Hutchinson, born in Ruleville, Mississippi in 1887, a housewife. Both of his parents died in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Memorials may be made to the St. Francis Episcopal Church.