J. Woodford 'Woody' Howard Jr., Hopkins professor and patron of the arts

J. Woodford "Woody" Howard Jr., a former longtime Johns Hopkins University professor of political science and constitutional law who was also a patron of the arts and a collector of modern art, died May 19 of complications from dementia at his Roland Park Place home.

He was 85.

"Woody was in his own right a really great scholar and a major figure in American public law," said Cornelius M. "Neil" Kerwin, president of American University and a former student of Dr. Howard's at Hopkins.

"I came to Hopkins in the fall of 1972 as a doctoral student in the political science department, and I worked closely with him for two years on my doctoral dissertation," said Dr. Kerwin, who will be stepping down as American University president next week.

"He turned me into a scholar. I came to Hopkins as a student, and after he worked me over, I left as a scholar," he said with a chuckle. "He was a major figure in my development. His classes were tough, rigorous, very demanding and daunting for a graduate student, but when he was in your corner, he was in your corner."

The son of J. Woodford Howard Sr., a lawyer, and Florence Stephens Howard, a homemaker, J. Woodford Howard Jr. was born in Ashland, Ky., and raised in Prestonburg, Ky.

"He spent his entire life explaining what the 'J' stood for, which was nothing. His father initiated that," said his daughter, Elaine Hope Christ of Glen Arm.

He was a summa cum laude graduate of Duke University, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in political science in 1952. He earned two master's degrees, one in 1954 and the other a year later, from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

After serving with the Air Force from 1955 to 1957 in Morocco, he returned to Princeton, where he earned his doctorate in 1959.

From 1961 to 1962, he was a Harvard University fellow in law and political science.

Dr. Howard's academic interests were American constitutional law, the judicial process and behavior, law and society, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals.

He was an instructor and associate professor in government and law from 1958 to 1962 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., when he returned to Duke as an associate professor of political science.

He joined the Hopkins faculty in 1967 as an associate professor of political science, and in 1969 was named a full professor.

He chaired the department of political science from 1973 to 1975, and was the Thomas P. Stran Professor of Political Science from 1975 until his retirement in 1996.

"He was well known among graduate students at Johns Hopkins for his challenging seminars involving hypothetical discussions," his daughter wrote in a biographical profile of her father.

Dr. Howard was the author of two "seminal works," according to Dr. Kerwin: "Mr. Justice Murphy: A Political Biography," on Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy; and "Court of Appeals in the Federal Judicial System," which earned him the American Bar Association Certificate in 1982.

At the time of the Watergate scandal, Dr. Howard said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun that American history was "replete" with similar examples of corruption.

"The premise of the original Federalist papers was that men are corrupt. For every politician that is corrupt, there is a corrupter," he said. "I don't buy for a minute the idea that politics is more corrupt than business or the professions. When we're talking about corruption, we're talking about ourselves."

In 2008, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association.

The former longtime resident of Tunbridge Road in Homeland moved to Roland Park Place in 2013.

He and his wife of 57 years, the former Valerie Hope Barclay, a nurse and midwife he met in a German class in Austria, were supporters of the arts in Baltimore.

He served on the board of trustees at the Baltimore Museum of Art and was on the board for the Shriver Hall Concert Series on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus.

"As a trustee of the BMA, he is one of the best that I can remember," said Jay Fisher, deputy director of curatorial affairs at the museum.

"He was head of the Shriver Hall Concert Series Music Committee that chooses the artists that will be presented," said Rita Becker, also a member of the committee and a patron of the arts.

Dr. Howard and his wife also were avid collectors of modern art.

"He had works by Fairfield Porter, a large painting by Willem de Kooning that had been in his dining room and a Grace Hartigan I greatly admired," Ms. Becker said. "He even had art rolled up under the bed."

"Dr. Howard and his wife donated a wonderful painting by Grace Hartigan from the early 1960s, which is the best possible period for a work by her," Mr. Fisher said. "He also gave us a great Picasso cubist print from the 1930s."

Dr. Howard was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. June 9.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by two grandsons.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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