James M. Holway

Howard County: His '2-cents' worth' many times over added to a small fortune in civic discourse.

June 30, 1999

WHEN IT COMES to quirky, impersonal relationships, Internet chat rooms have nothing on editors and their most voluminous letter writers. Like many newspapers, The Sun has its share of correspondents who offer their views for publication several times a month, sometimes more.

Editors, and the newspaper's readers, come to recognize the writers' names, debating styles, the pet peeves that prod them to comment so often. Though they might get only one of 20 or 30 letters printed, that never seems to discourage. Why should it? Like winning the lottery, getting one's opinion in general circulation offers its own brand of celebrity -- and the odds are better.

Which brings us to James Malcolm Holway. The Ellicott City resident died of a stroke last week at age 73. We on the editorial board never met him and rarely spoke with him, but enjoyed a sort of relationship for years. He had about 50 letters published in the last seven years and mailed many more. Most of his letters decried changes that he believed were eroding the home-rule charter he helped draft for Howard County 31 years ago. His area of interest was arcane, but the passion of his argument moved the reader even when the reader wasn't sure exactly where he was being moved to.

In his obituary, his wife, Harriette, attributed his interest in local affairs to his growing up on New England town meetings.

Mr. Holway belonged to a diminishing breed that actually pays attention to elected representatives' actions. His concerns about the charter reflected respect for the "rule of law," though he never, ever used the phrase as fodder for partisan attack. He understood that responsive government is more vital to the enduring success of a county than its next shopping mall or subdivision. Civic discourse in Howard, and our letters columns, will be poorer without him.

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