James M. Holway, 73, Howard councilman

June 25, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

James Malcolm Holway, who as a member of the Howard County charter board in the mid-1960s laid the groundwork for home rule and later served on the first full-term Howard County Council, died Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of a stroke. He was 73.

The former longtime Elkridge resident had lived in Ellicott City in recent years.

Mr. Holway had a well-earned reputation as a pugnacious civic gadfly, regularly attending council meetings and vociferously defending to the letter of the law the charter that was approved by voters in 1968.

Under home rule, a county executive and five full-time County Council members replaced the 167-year-old, three-member county commission form of government.

A Republican, he served on the Howard County Council from 1970 to 1974.

"He really loved and cared about Howard County," said Ann H. Ryder, a Howard County government information specialist and friend of 25 years. "He had a lot to give, and he gave it. He wanted government to be fair and equitable and if it wasn't, he let them know it."

"He was a pretty gutsy politician who told it as he saw it without regard to political consequences," said former County Executive J. Hugh Nichols of Maplesville, Ala., a consultant on public administration and economic development. "He'd latch onto a principle like a bulldog, and he wouldn't let go. He watched the budget and bond sales. He was obsessed with the idea that the people of Howard County not get rooked out of their money by politicians who weren't following issues as closely as he was."

Former County Executive Charles I. Ecker said Mr. Holway "was a detail person who was always looking ahead all the time."

"He was full of suggestions and ideas," Mr. Ecker said. "He was a civic watchdog who made sure we wouldn't violate the code and charter."

Edward L. Cochran, who served as councilman and county executive during the 1970s, said: "He had pride of authorship of the charter, and naturally was quite defensive of it. However, it was only because he had such a high regard for Howard County."

Mr. Holway was born in Willimantic, Conn., and raised in Waterbury, Vt. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Dartmouth College in the late 1940s and a master's degree in business from the Johns Hopkins University in 1960.

He spent 36 years with Westinghouse Defense Systems Center as a program manager in the electronics countermeasures program and retired in 1985. He served in the Navy Reserve and was discharged with the rank of commander in 1978.

His wife of 46 years, the former Harriette Dean, ascribed his civic involvement to his having "been raised on New England town meetings."

Despite living in Maryland for the past 48 years, Mr. Holway never lost interest in his hometown and its issues. He was a prodigious writer of letters to newspapers there and those that served Howard County.

He was a past chairman of the Howard County Historical Society and a member of the Howard County Citizens Association, the Lawyers Hill-Rockburn Association and the Elkridge Heritage Society.

He attended Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Frederick Road and Beechwood Avenue, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, James Michael Holway of Phoenix, Ariz.; a daughter, Karen Patricia Holway of New Park, Pa.; and a grandson.

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