David T. Howard: From Georgia slave to Atlanta philanthropist

AJC Sepia Black History Month


David T. Howard rose from slavery at his birth in Crawford County, Georgia in 1849, to being called “Atlanta’s most beloved citizen and the city’s pioneer businessman” in the Atlanta Daily World’s obituary of him in 1935.

Howard, who took the name of his slave master after the Civil War, worked as a railroad porter in Atlanta before becoming an undertaker, with his mortuary business eventually making him one of the city’s first black millionaires, according to historian Nasir Muhammad in a previous story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He was a founder of the city’s first black-owned bank, Atlanta State Savings Bank.

Howard was a noted philanthropist and civic activist and his efforts and contributions included support of the Butler Street YMCA, Big Bethel AME Church and education on behalf of Booker T. Washington High School and the Atlanta University Center, according to the Daily World.

Perhaps the most lasting example of his legacy was his donation of the property at 551 John Wesley Dobbs Ave., which from 1923 to it’s closing in 1976 was the site of the David T. Howard School.

Among the notable students at the school given by a former slave to educate black Atlantans were Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson, Vernon Jordan, Herman J. Russell, Eldrin Bell, and Walt Frazier.

Howard died at his granddaughter’s house in Atlanta at age 85.

His body was taken to the David T. Howard Mortuary.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Gary Oldman on Winston Churchill: ‘He was a superman’
Gary Oldman on Winston Churchill: ‘He was a superman’

WASHINGTON — At a press tour stop in D.C. earlier this month, actor Gary Oldman — who’s been known to have somewhat, shall we say, interesting views on political correctness — actually shied away from any overt mention of politics on the red carpet for his new movie “The Darkest Hour.” Oldman, a cinematic chameleon...
Review: Denzel Washington overpowers ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’
Review: Denzel Washington overpowers ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’

Writer/director Dan Gilroy had Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington in mind when he was creating the script for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” His instincts were right. Washington buries himself deep in the role of a savant lawyer who finds himself at a major junction in his life when his mentor dies. As Washington has done in every role he plays...
Review: Colorful, lush ‘Coco’ is a masterpiece
Review: Colorful, lush ‘Coco’ is a masterpiece

One thing’s for certain — you’re going to want to call your grandparents after seeing Pixar’s latest masterpiece “Coco.” Centered around the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), “Coco” uses the vibrant colors and style of the holiday to spin an imaginative tale rich in tradition and...
Manson’s life as a failed musician, Beach Boys hanger-on
Manson’s life as a failed musician, Beach Boys hanger-on

Starting in the 1970s, not long after Charles Manson directed his followers to murder seven people over two bloody nights in Los Angeles, the convicted killer’s music and notoriety fueled a small underground industry. The allure was centered on Manson’s only album, recorded in Los Angeles in 1967 and ‘68 and issued a year after the...
Review: ‘Christmas’ is a Dickens of a good time
Review: ‘Christmas’ is a Dickens of a good time

There have been numerous TV, film and stage adaptations of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” over the years. None have combined as much charm, warmth and holiday spirit as Bharat Nalluri’s “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” OK. Before you start shouting “Bah, humbug,” this technically isn’t a...
More Stories