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Malcolm X’s Forgotten Kindred Soul

The anniversary of Malcolm X’s birth brings to mind the parallels to another great African-American activist: T.R.M. Howard. The two came to know each other late in Malcolm’s life, often talking late into the night at Howard’s home. In 1965 Howard gave the main eulogy for Malcolm at a memorial service in Chicago and headed the Chicago fund to raise money for the education of his children.

Although each grew up in poverty and were raised in great part by single mothers, their paths soon radically diverged. Howard, after getting a medical degree with the help of a white doctor, became the chief surgeon of the Taborian Hospital in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, where he provided affordable and high-quality health care to thousands. In addition to owning a 1,000-acre farm, he established an insurance company, a home-construction firm, and even a small zoo.

During the early 1950s, Howard led the largest civil-rights movement in Mississippi and organized a successful boycott of service stations that refused to provide restrooms for blacks. He later played a pivotal role in the Emmett Till murder case. He helped to find witnesses to testify against the white killers and provided an armed escort to the trial for Till’s mother. Howard moved to Chicago in 1958, where he mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Congress (as a Republican) and opened the city’s largest privately owned black medical center.

David T. Beito is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at the University of Alabama, and co-author of the book, T. R. M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer.

Linda Royster Beito is Professor and Dean of Arts and Science at Stillman College, and co-author of the book, T. R. M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer.

New from David T. Beito!
T.R.M. HOWARD: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer
T. R. M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer tells the remarkable story of one of the early leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. A renaissance man, T. R. M. Howard (1908-1976) was a respected surgeon, important black community leader, and successful businessman. Howard's story reveals the importance of the black middle class, their endurance and entrepreneurship in the midst of Jim Crow, and their critical role in the early Civil Rights Movement.