Even after a lifetime of activism, the Rev. Roland Howard sees more work to be done.
Howard is concerned about troubled young people and the breakdown of his community -- both of which he blames on the infusion of development in Howard County over several decades.
"When I was growing up, the teachers, the business people, the policemen all looked out for each other," said Howard, who was raised and still lives in the Meadowridge community of Elkridge. "I see a real problem because we don't know our neighbors anymore."
He admits that even his church -- Banneker Christian Community Church in Columbia, which he started in 1984 and where he still preaches twice a month -- fails to make up for the loss of community atmosphere that was so important to his upbringing.
"I couldn't get away with a whole lot because others would say, 'I know your father,' and they did. And you were forced to behave," Howard said.
It's not surprising that at an age when others enjoy retirement, he will soon begin volunteering in a learning program at Howard High School. Howard said he believes he can provide guidance and friendship to a new generation of students.
"He's 71 and yet he's looking for opportunities to contribute, to be of service to the community," said Howard Schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, who regularly receives Howard's offers of help. "Most people that age want the community to be of service to them."
Howard is woven into the fabric of his community, through his family lineage as well as his deeds. He can trace his family' to slaves held by the son of the Howard for whom the county is named.
Howard's accomplishments -- after raising seven children with his wife, Lilly -- range from heading the PTA at the old Waterloo Middle School in Elkridge to chairing the Elkridge Headstart Center.
In the 1970s, Howard championed programs at Howard County public schools to befriend and tutor troubled students.
"He's a very honorable man. He's a friend and advocate of the community," lifetime Elkridge resident Cordelia Hanson said. "You don't find too many like him these days."
From other area ministers, to County Council members to area residents, Howard's list of admirers is lengthy.
"He's a very respected gentleman who has done so much for the community. We've never had any race problems because of people like him," said Dorothy Baker of Elkridge. "I don't know anyone who knows Reverend Howard who doesn't like him."
Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker admired the minister so much that he asked him to say a prayer at Ecker's inauguration as county executive in 1990.
"With any issue that affects his community, he's there in force," said County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, an east Columbia Democrat. "The world is run by people who show up to vote, to voice their concern or just to help out. Reverend Howard is one of those people."
Howard has given himself to others and thinks more people should do the same.
"If everybody would contribute something back to society, give of themselves, their experience, their knowledge, then we wouldn't have nearly the problems we have now," he said.
Pub Date: 3/01/98