Dr. Ralph Metcalf Howard, a retired urologist who was a medical pioneer in that field in Baltimore's African-American community, died of pneumonia Dec. 26 at Maryland General Hospital. The Lochearn resident was 74.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Baker Street, he was a 1951 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School, where he was a member of the drama club.
Family members said he was encouraged to pursue medicine by Dr. Harry F. Brown, a West Baltimore physician who had delivered him and his nine siblings.
Dr. Howard earned a Bachelor of Science degree at what is now Morgan State University. In 1959, he completed his education with a medical degree from the Howard University College of Medicine.
Dr. Howard did his internship at Los Angeles County General Hospital and became a flight surgeon in the Air Force. He was stationed at Okinawa.
After leaving military service, he spent a year in general surgery at Freedman's Hospital in Washington, then returned to Baltimore and became the first black chief resident in urology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, his family said. He spent three years in training at the hospital.
In 1971, Dr. Howard became the second African-American in the state certified by the American Board of Urology, family members said.
"He brought a down-to-earth approach to life and to people," said Judge Martin P. Welch of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, who is a member of Dr. Howard's extended family. "He liked being an old-fashioned doctor."
Dr. Howard established a private medical practice and saw patients for many years at the Madison Park Professional Center in Reservoir Hill. He was chief of urology at Provident Hospital and was on the staffs of the University of Maryland, Maryland General and Lutheran hospitals.
"He was an interesting person, sophisticated, quiet and had a smooth air," said a medical colleague, Dr. Louis L. Randall. "He was studious and at times could be a little bit sarcastic. Ralph Howard reminded me of the actor Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia."
Dr. Howard loved classical music. He played the piano and violin after an elementary school teacher, Elmira Miller, recognized his musical ability. She arranged a fellowship for him to be taught by a Peabody Conservatory of Music teacher at the school.
As an adult, Dr. Howard regularly attended Baltimore Symphony and Baltimore Opera performances. He also had a large library of recorded music and sang at family gatherings.
Dr. Howard also enjoyed entertaining family and friends at his vacation home in Cecil County at the head of the Chesapeake Bay.
He was an active member of the American Urological Association, the Baltimore City Medical Society and the Monumental City Medical Society, among other organizations. He published scientific articles in the Journal of Urology.
He served on the advisory boards of the Maryland Kidney Foundation and the Advance Savings Bank.
Services will be held at 12:30 p.m. today at March West Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.
Survivors include a son, Christopher L. Howard of Owings Mills; three sisters, Lucy H. Sylvester of Washington and Edith H. Henry and Rebecca H. Davis, both of Baltimore; and a granddaughter. His marriage to Stephanie LaForest ended in divorce.