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Joseph E. Howell, Legg Mason executive

Joseph E. Howell, who was one of Baltimore’s first World War II draftees and later became a vice president and general partner at Legg Mason, died Monday at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson of heart disease.
Joseph E. Howell, who was one of Baltimore’s first World War II draftees and later became a vice president and general partner at Legg Mason, died Monday at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson of heart disease. (Paul Hutchins, Baltimore Sun)

Joseph E. Howell, who was one of Baltimore's first World War II draftees and later became a vice president and general partner at Legg Mason, died Monday at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson of heart disease. He was 95.

The son of Charles Edward Howell, a Standard Oil Co. worker, and Margaret Howell, a homemaker, Joseph Emery Howell was born in Baltimore and raised in the 900 block of St. Charles Ave. in the Beechfield neighborhood of Baltimore County

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On Sept. 16, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Service Act, which set the stage for the nation's first-ever peacetime draft and first compulsory military service since World War I, as the Nazis waged war throughout Europe and unleashed the airborne Battle of Britain.

Men between the ages of 21 and 36 began to register nationally for the draft on Oct. 16, with 241,875 eventually signing up in Maryland.

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One of them was Mr. Howell, who had recently turned 21 and whose draft card bore the number 158.

Mr. Howell, who had graduated from Catonsville High School in 1937, was working at an Esso gas station at 33rd Street and Greenmount Avenue, while studying business and economics at night at the Johns Hopkins University.

On Oct. 29, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson reached into a fishbowl and drew out a capsule, which President Roosevelt then slowly read. The number was 158.

While working at the gas station on Saturday, Nov. 2, the phone rang. It was Mr. Howell's mother calling to tell him his draft notice had arrived. He was now in the Army.

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"They were working very quickly," Mr. Howell told The Baltimore Sun in a 1990 interview.

He was the first draftee from Catonsville, and early on the morning of Nov. 25, Mr. Howell reported to Baltimore County Draft Board No. 1.

There he received a token for the No. 8 streetcar and rode downtown to the Court Square Building on North Calvert Street.

After being examined all day, Mr. Howell and 18 other draftees from Maryland went to Camden Station, where they boarded a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad train that took them to Fort Meade. There they were inducted into the Army.

"And that was it," he said in The Sun interview, recalling that he was given the number AUS33002016.

After being issued a steel cot and mattress, sheets, blankets, pillow and pillow cases, Mr. Howell and the other inductees retired to a barracks on the base and fell asleep.

"I remember a cannon went off at 6 o'clock in the morning right outside my window. Believe me, you wake up in a hurry. You're wondering what's going on," he said.

"You move along with the process," Mr. Howell recalled. "You're drafted; you go. Things just move one after the other. There wasn't a lot of feeling involved. We were not going to war. I was reluctant to leave my job and family and school."

Americans who were called up thought they would be away for no longer than a year, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, changed that.

"I was only going to be in for a year," he told The Sun. "The saying was, 'Goodbye, dear, I'll be back in a year.'"

"The first two months were the hardest," Mr. Howell told The Evening Sun. "Nothing will ever take the place of regular hours, and the Army bean still reigns as king of the mess hall."

He had originally been assigned to the Headquarters Battalion of the 99th Field Artillery at Edgewood Arsenal, which was the pack-mule artillery.

After graduating in 1942 from Officer Candidate School, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant, he served at several stateside posts before eventually being sent to Europe in 1945, where he was put in charge of a prisoner-of-war camp.

Mr. Howell served in the Army for five years and 51/2 months.

After being discharged in 1946, he went to work four days later as a registered representative at the old Mackubin Legg & Co., which was a predecessor of Legg Mason.

Mr. Howell rose through the ranks and was made a general partner in 1967. He later headed the firm's Towson office. He was a vice president at the time of his 1992 retirement.

For two decades, he served with the Maryland National Guard and at the time of his discharge in 1966, he had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.

His philanthropic interests included Maryland Public Television, the Baltimore County Public Library, county senior centers, hospitals and the Maryland SPCA.

The former Towson resident moved to Blakehurst 12 years ago.

He enjoyed tennis and continued playing until he was well into his 80s, and had umpired for the U.S. Open.

Mr. Howell also enjoyed golf and during his 50 years of playing, he had seven holes-in-one. For the last 12 years, he had been a member of the Towson Golf and Country Club.

"He continued playing golf until he was 90 and could no longer see the ball," said a son, John Charles Howell of Parkville. "And he remained clear and lucid until the end of his life. Just last week, he was talking about his service in World War II."

A Mason, he had been a member of the Boumi Temple.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Mr. Howell is survived by his wife of 20 years, the former Mary Anna Draper; another son, Joseph E. Howell Jr. of Seattle; two daughters, Nancy Cadigan and Elizabeth Sands, both of Catonsville; two stepdaughters, Judy Marsh of Towson and Diane Baer of Missouri; a sister, Martha Colbourn of Elkhart, Ind.; and five grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Grace McGrath ended in divorce.

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