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T.R.M. Howard
Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer
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ISBN-13: 978-1-59813-313-4

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Independent Institute

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T.R.M. Howard
Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer
Price: $19.95

Free Shipping On Orders Over $60! (Within U.S.A.)

Paperback • 6 x 9 inches

ISBN-13: 978-1-59813-313-4

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Independent Institute

Educators: Request exam copy


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.

In this powerful biography, David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito shine a light on the life and accomplishments of this civil rights leader. Howard founded black community organizations, organized civil rights rallies and boycotts, championed free enterprise, critiqued Big Government and socialism, mentored Medgar Evers, fought the Ku Klux Klan, and helped lead the fight for justice for Emmett Till and others. Raised in poverty and witness to racial violence from a young age, Howard was passionate about justice and equality. Ambitious, zealous, and sometimes paradoxical, T.R.M. Howard provides a complete and fascinating portrait of an important leader all too often forgotten.

Reader’s Guide

The purpose of these questions, suggested topics, and list for further reading is to improve your reading group’s discussion of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Leader. Dr. Howard was a black entrepreneur in Mississippi who led a mass movement to fight Jim Crow several years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, ran a hospital that gave affordable health care for the poor, led a successful boycott against segregation, and faced down J. Edgar Hoover.


Without T.R.M. Howard (1908–1976), we probably would never have heard of civil rights icons such as Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, and, quite possibly, Rosa Parks. Howard was either a mentor or inspirer to all of them. The movement he created featured mass rallies, campaigns against police brutality and disfranchisement, and successful boycotts. A necessary prerequisite for this work was a rich tradition black self-help, mutual aid, and entrepreneurship, which Howard encouraged both in word and in deed.

Through both luck and pluck, Howard gained a medical education in the 1930s and became chief surgeon of the Taborian Hospital in the Mississippi Delta during the 1940s. By the end of the 1940s, his shrewd investments and skilled diplomacy with local whites made him one of the wealthiest blacks in the Mississippi. He branched out to form the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), which collectively represented thousands of men and women in Mississippi’s leading black organizations. The Council combined a gospel of self-help, business investment, and thrift with a nuts-and-bolts program for political equality and voting rights. During the last twenty years of his life, Howard ran Chicago’s largest privately owned black clinic and was instrumental in movements against police brutality and to elect a black mayor.

Cast of Characters

The Family

  • T.R.M. Howard, self-made and fearless surgeon and entrepreneur in Jim Crow Mississippi, creator of a mass movement for civil rights.
  • Helen Boyd Howard, wife, born into the Los Angeles upper crust; had to adjust to the rigid segregation and violence of 1950s Mississippi.  
  • Edward Boyd, Helen’s brother, first black executive at Pepsi Cola, friend of Howard.
  • Mary Chandler Howard Palmer, mother, mentor.
  • Barrett Howard, troubled son.
  • Ronald Harris, grandson, until his tragic death, regarded by Howard as his heir.

Howard’s Civil Rights Associates

  • Medgar Evers, Howard’s employee in selling insurance and right-hand man in organizing boycotts and registering voters.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer, a poor plantation worker, cook for the RCNL’s giant civil rights rallies, and future civil rights legend.
  • Thurgood Marshall, NAACP legal counsel, speaker at Howard’s rallies, later worked with the FBI to undermine him.
  • Martin Luther King Jr., Howard’s host at a rally in Montgomery, Alabama, five days before the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • Rosa Parks, attended Howard’s speech in Montgomery, Alabama in late November 1955 about the Emmett Till murder, was thinking of Till when she refused to give up her seat.
  • Malcolm X, came to Howard’s home to ask for advice and money, Howard raised money to help his widow and children.
  • Jesse Jackson, started Operation PUSH in the home of one of his leading financial supporters, T.R.M. Howard who co-founded the group.

Other Characters

  • J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director, wrote an open leader to the press and secretly cooperated with Thurgood Marshall trying to undermine Howard.
  • Emmett Till, fourteen-year old teenager from Chicago, murdered by white racists.
  • The late Senator Theodore G. ‘the Man” Bilbo, lampooned in Howard’s speeches for sending a message from hell to the current governor.
  • Jesse Owens, Olympic track star, black Republican, friend of Howard in Chicago.
  • Harold Washington, future Mayor of Chicago, friend and associate of Howard.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

  1. Why do so few now remember Howard despite his key leadership role in the helping to found the modern civil rights movement?  In what ways did his business success, flamboyance, zest for life, and affinity for guns serve to “put people off”?

  2. What was the relationship between Howard’s civil rights efforts and the complex web of black self-help, business, and community organizations?  Would the modern movement even be possible had it not been for these entities?

  3. What was your reaction to the stress the authors put on armed self-defense as a key part of the civil rights movement (pp. 5, 115-17)?  Did the ubiquitousness of guns among Howard’s supporters decrease or increase the threat of violence?

  4. Is it fair to call Howard the “P.T. Barnum of civil rights” because of his love of putting on a good show at the annual rallies of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (pp. 98-99)? How did Howard’s approach to building a mass movement differ from that of Martin Luther King?

  5. Does Howard deserve criticism for his willingness to work with such controversial white figures as Bob Shuler (who had once been allied with Ku Klux Klan) and Senator Theodore G. Bilbo, perhaps the most notorious racist in the history of the U.S. Senate (pp. 24-27, 60-64)?

  6. The book discusses Thurgood Marshall’s close relationship with J. Edgar Hoover and his efforts to undermine Howard (pp. 147-48).  Why did Marshall do this and were his actions justified?

  7. Howard and his family fled Mississippi in early 1950s.  Why did he do this and would be better known today had he stayed?

  8. What is the significance of the murder of Emmett Till (pp. 129-88) in setting the stage for the rise of the modern civil rights movement?

  9. What accounts for the success of Howard’s “Don’t Buy Gas Where You Can’t Use the Restroom” boycott of service stations (pp. 89-91)?  Why, by contrast, did the Montgomery Bus Boycott have so difficult a time in it its initial stages?

  10. How did lynchings in Western Kentucky, and the attempted lynching of Lube Martin, helped to shape Howard’s early attitudes and subsequent interest in civil rights (pp. 7-9)?  What were some comparisons between his childhood and those of other civil rights leaders

  11. In what ways did Howard’s goals and methods resemble the black improvement approaches of Booker T. Washington, on the one hand, and W.E.B. DuBois on the other?

  12. A product of mutual aid the Taborian Hospital of Mound Bayou served a membership base in Mississippi of nearly 50,000 people (pp. 52-56).  How effective was this hospital in meeting the health-needs of members and how did Howard contribute to this effectiveness?

  13. Why did Howard perform abortions on such a significant scale?  Should these activities be praised or did they “taint” his legacy in a fundamental way?

  14. In some ways Howard’s economic wealth made it easier for him to take risks for civil rights, but sometimes it hindered his freedom of action.  Give examples of each.

  15. As a Seventh-day Adventist, Howard was a rare example of a civil rights leader who did not come from a mainstream religious background  (usually Baptist or Methodist).    Unlike Martin Luther King, he had no strong religious base of support.  Were there ways in which his SDA affiliation also aided his activism?

  16. Despite his often “in your face” confrontational rhetoric, which often mocked segregationists, Howard was able to establish strong business and professional relationships with individual whites in Mississippi.  How was he able to pull off this balancing feat?

  17. Does Howard’s life provide any lessons or cautionary tales for current activist movements such as Black Lives Matter?

About the Authors

David T. Beito is professor of history at the University of Alabama and the author of two books, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Resistance during the Great Depression.  He was co-editor of The Voluntary City.  Beito is also the head of the Alabama advisory committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Linda Royster Beito is professor of social sciences and coordinator of Cybersecurity at Stillman College.  She is the author of Leadership Effectiveness of Community Policing.  The students awarded her best female faculty at Stillman College for 2018.  With her husband, she is co-author of a movie script about events depicted in T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Leader.

Suggested Reading

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, by Charles M. Payne.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein.

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, Edited by Jonathan Bean.

Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington, by Robert Jeffrey Norrell.

The Blood of Emmett Till, by Timothy B. Tyson.

We Will Shoot Back, Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, Akinyele Umoja.

Emmett Till: The Murder that Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement, by Devery Anderson.


Table of Contents

Foreword by Jerry W. Mitchell

1. Up from the Black Patch
2. The Education of a “Race Man”
3. Fraternalist, Entrepreneur, Planter, and Segregation-Era Pragmatist
4. A “Modern ‘Moses’” for Civil Rights in Mississippi
5. “The Most Hated, and the Best Loved, Man in Mississippi”
6. “Hell to Pay in Mississippi”: The Murder of Emmett Till
7. “Time Bomb”: Howard, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Emmett Till Mystery
8. Taking on the Machine in Chicago: A Republican Campaign for Congress
9. Triumph and Tragedy: The Friendship Medical Center

About the Authors
Illustrations follow page 128

Detailed Summary


  • Without Dr. T.R.M. Howard (1908–1976), we probably would never have heard of civil rights icons such as Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, and, quite possibly, Rosa Parks. Howard was either a mentor or inspirer to all of them. Long before Martin Luther King Jr. rose to prominence, he created a mass movement in the Mississippi Delta which featured mass rallies, campaigns against police brutality and disfranchisement, and successful boycotts.

  • Through both luck and pluck, Howard gained a medical education in the 1930s and became chief surgeon of the Taborian Hospital in the Mississippi Delta during the 1940s, providing a ordable and high-quality health-care to thousands of blacks, all without a penny of governmental aid. By the end of the 1940s, his shrewd investments and skilled diplomacy with local whites made him one of the wealthiest blacks in the Mississippi. He branched out to form the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), which collectively represented thousands of men and women in Mississippi’s leading black organizations. The Council combined a gospel of self-help, business investment and thrift with a nuts-and-bolts program for political equality and voting rights.

  • Howard’s activism in the “belly of the Jim Crow beast” in Mississippi illustrates the interdependence of civil rights and gun ownership. The presence of heavily armed RCNL members served to deter whites from attacking its rallies. Howard had his own arsenal of weapons for protection including a Thompson submachine gun. To evade Mississippi’s discriminatory gun control laws, he had pistol stowed away in a hidden compartment in his car.

  • Howard zealously worked to find witnesses and evidence after the murder of Emmett Till, a case that was instrumental in spurring the modern civil rights movement. Emmett Till’s mother stayed at his house, and he gave refuge to many witnesses. After the acquittal of the white killers, Howard spoke on the case to mass rallies in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and other cities. In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks was in the audience and Martin Luther King Jr. (then an unknown local minster) was his host for one of the talks. When Parks refused to give up her seat four days later, she later recalled that she was thinking of Till.

  • Howard’s career in Chicago from 1956 until his death in 1976 shows his continuing and creative dedication to economic and political empowerment. He ran as a GOP candidate for Congress and played an important role in the struggle against the Richard J. Daley Democratic machine. He also gained renown for the annual New Year’s parties at his house which attracted the likes of Jesse Owens. Most notably, he was head of the largest privately owned black medical facility in the city.

  • Howard stands out not only as a major pioneer of the modern civil rights movement but as a successful entrepreneur, physician, and mutual aid leader. All of these efforts built on a foundation of self-help, business success, and mutual aid, which in great part had been laid by his hero, Booker T. Washington.


If T.R.M. Howard were the protagonist of a bestselling novel, readers would be captivated but critics would dismiss him as too unlikely, too unbelievable. With his quick mind and boundless energy he excelled in whatever realm he pursued—be it hunting, medicine, public speaking, business, opinion journalism, or political activism. And he was always close to controversy.

Howard’s larger-than-life story has never been told better than in T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, and Civil Rights Pioneer, by historians David T. and Linda Royster Beito.

Born into poverty, Howard was a renaissance man of twentieth-century black history who founded hospitals and medical associations, launched a variety of successful enterprises that made him one of the wealthiest African-Americans in Mississippi, organized statewide boycotts, mentored civil rights activists such as Medgar Evers, who was later assassinated by a Klansman, and inspired the likes of Rosa Parks.

Howard sometimes disagreed about strategy with Martin Luther King Jr., but he drew the wrath of J. Edgar Hoover, who denounced him in an open letter for criticizing the FBI’s refusal to investigate the murder of Emmett Till. Yet despite the seriousness of his battles and achievements, Howard was well known for his benevolence, fun-loving lifestyle, and fabulous parties attended by celebrities such as Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson.

T.R.M. Howard tells more than the story of a single man. It also brings to the fore the heroic contributions of black entrepreneurs and professionals during the civil rights era, a role often neglected by historians. Meticulously researched and lucidly written, its narrative of men and women pursuing equal justice and economic betterment offers hope and inspiration as Americans consider the next steps for securing liberty and justice for all.

Origins and Ascent

Howard’s childhood in the Black Patch of Western Kentucky was one of poverty and violence. His father was a tobacco twister and his mother was a cook for Will Mason, a local white doctor who was also a Seventh-day Adventist. The Howard family depended on young Theodore’s hunting skills to bring food to the dinner table. Just shy of his ninth birthday, Howard had personal experience with a near lynching that was stopped only by a personal visit of the governor to the city of Murray. Dr. Mason noticed the boy’s talents, put him to work in his hospital’s bakery, and helped to get him into Seventh-day Adventist colleges. In homage, Howard later added “Mason” as one of his middle names.

Howard was the only black student in the 1930s at Loma Linda University, an Adventist medical school in Southern California. While there, he took part in civil rights and political causes and wrote a regular column for the California Eagle, the leading black newspaper in Los Angeles. As president of the California, Economic, and Political League, Howard championed black business ownership and opposed local efforts to impose segregation. He also married the prominent black socialite, Helen Nela Boyd. The Howards were married for forty-one years and adopted one child. Howard also he fathered several children out of wedlock with other women.

Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Poineer

In 1942, Howard became chief surgeon of the hospital of the Knights and Daughters of Tabor, a fraternal organization in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The Taborian Hospital gave affordable and accessible health-care to the Delta’s impoverished black population. During the same period, Howard founded an insurance company, restaurant, home construction firm, and a large farm where he raised cattle, quail, hunting dogs, and cotton. He built a small zoo and a park, as well as the first swimming pool for blacks in Mississippi. In 1947 he broke with the Knights and organized the United Order of Friendship which founded the Friendship Clinic.

Howard rose to civil-rights prominence after founding the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) in 1951. His compatriots in the Council included Medgar Evers, whom Howard hired as an agent for his company, the Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company, and Aaron Henry, a future leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. The RCNL mounted a successful boycott against service stations that denied the use of restrooms to blacks, distributing some twenty thousand bumper stickers with the slogan, “Don’t Buy Gas Where You Can’t Use the Restroom.”

The group also organized yearly rallies in Mound Bayou for civil rights, which drew as many as ten thousand people, including budding activists such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Amzie Moore. Rally speakers included U.S. congressmen William L. Dawson and Charles C. Diggs, Chicago Alderman Archibald Carey Jr., and NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall. One of the entertainers was Mahalia Jackson.

In 1954, the RCNL campaigned in Mississippi for immediate implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That push encountered fierce economic pressure from the racist white Citizens’ Councils. At Howard’s suggestion, the NAACP encouraged businesses, churches, and voluntary associations to transfer their accounts to the black-owned Tri-State Bank of Memphis. The plan infused much-needed aid to victims of economic pressure. Howard also served as chairman of the board of the National Negro Business League, the black version of the chamber of commerce.

The Murder of Emmet Till

The next year, Howard moved into the national spotlight following the murder of Emmett Till and the September trial of his killers J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. Howard helped direct the search for evidence, and his home was a “black command center” for witnesses and journalists. Visitors noticed the high level of security, including armed guards and a plethora of weapons. Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till (Mobley), and Charles Diggs stayed at his home when they came to testify. Howard alleged that more than two people took part in the crime.

After an all-white jury acquitted Milam and Bryant, Howard gave many speeches nationwide on Till’s murder and other examples of racial violence. One of these was in Montgomery, Alabama, on November 27, 1955, and was hosted by Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks, who attended, later recalled that she was thinking of Emmett Till when she refused to give her seat four days after hearing Howard.

In early 1956, the Chicago Defender awarded Howard the top spot on its annual national honor role. Martin Luther King Jr. was not on the list. Meanwhile Howard and his family increasingly faced death threats and economic pressure. In speeches and writings, he put forward the (now proven) theory that more than two people took part in Emmett Till’s murder. He continued to push for reopening of the case, but without success.

Taking on the Chicago Machine

Howard’s move to Chicago in 1956 opened another chapter in his eventful life. He founded the profitable Howard Medical Center on the South Side and served as president of the National Medical Association, the black counterpart of the American Medical Association. In 1958 he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican against the powerful black Democratic incumbent Democrat William L. Dawson, a close ally of Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley.

Meanwhile, Howard helped found the Chicago League of Negro Voters, which nurtured the black independent movement of the 1960s and 1970s that eventually propelled several of Howard’s friends to higher office, including future mayor Harold Washington. In 1965, Howard chaired a Chicago committee to raise money for the children of the recently assassinated leader Malcolm X. Most controversially, he also became well known as a leading abortion provider. Howard regarded this work as complementary to his earlier civil rights activism.


Howard was a big-game hunter and made several trips to Africa for such hunting. His Chicago mansion, which he often opened for tours, included a “Safari Room” filled with trophies. Rev. Jesse Jackson found Operation Push there in 1971, and Howard was one of its officers and an important donor. The New Year parties of the Howards were a regular stop for Chicago’s black social elite. In 1972, he founded the Friendship Medical Center on the South Side. It was the largest privately owned black clinic in Chicago and boasted a staff of 160. He died in 1976.


“T.R.M. Howard was a towering freedom fighter. Too often forgotten! The powerful and insightful book, T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer, corrects the historical record and keeps his precious memory fresh for us!”
Cornel R. West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard Divinity School; Class of 1943 University Professor Emeritus, Center for African American Studies, Princeton University

T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer fills a gap. Too often today we conflate the civil rights movement with the legend of Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact there were countless others who fought for racial justice within an indifferent—and often hostile—society. This is the richly detailed story of one such man. T.R.M. Howard, in both his heroism and his human contradictions, is a human face on America’s greatest freedom movement. And, quite beyond its historical importance, this book is a gripping and moving read.”
Shelby Steele, Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; author, The Content of Our Character, A Dream Deferred, White Guilt, and Shame

“In the 15 or so years of the civil-rights movement, no incident evoked more outrage than the torture and killing of Emmett Till, the spirited 14-year-old who left Chicago in August 1955 to visit relatives in Mississippi. One afternoon in a general store, Till committed the fatal sin of smarting off (jokingly) to a white woman. His cousins hustled him away, but two nights later a knock at the door sounded. Menacing white men loomed, and as Till’s great-uncle pleaded they marched in and hauled him away. A few days later, Till’s body surfaced in the Tallahatchie River, a cotton-gin fan-wheel wrapped around him with barbed wire. The murder brought national disgust upon Mississippi. Especially after thousands of mourners viewed Till’s open casket and noted the barbarities wrought upon the boy. . . . One of them was T.R.M. Howard, physician, landowner, activist, orator, and the subject of T.R.M. Howard, a compelling biography by David T. Beito and his wife Linda Royster Beito. T.R.M. Howard is a necessary biography, too: Howard played an important part in the Emmett Till story, and in the entire civil-rights are. He deserves to be better known. . . . Three months after the Till murder, he lectured in a Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., the guest of 26-year-old pastor Martin Luther King. He spoke of shootings, the FBI and a freedom march on Washington, D.C. One woman in the audience remembered years later Howard’s vivid description of the Till killing. Her name was Rosa Parks, and four days after Howard spoke she answered a Montgomery bus driver, ‘No.’” . . . He bought land, bred livestock, served on the board of a bank and advanced black enterprise on the premise that political power needed financial power. He led voter-registration drives, supported boycotts, and lobbied Washington for services and hospitals. . . . Famed civil-rights leader Medgar Evans was Howard’s protégé, as was (later) Jesse Jackson. . . . Howard drove Cadillacs and Buicks, wore fancy clothes and loved guns and big-game hunting. He praised free enterprise with a Booker T. Washington fervor, believing entrepreneurs to be better agents of change than activists. . . . A flamboyant Second Amendment, anti-communist capitalist doesn’t please journalists and historians searching for civil-rights martyrs. T.R.M. Howard, though, makes room for exactly such a figure, and rightly so. That Howard made an important contribution is unquestionable.”
Wall Street Journal

“Dr. Howard was a history maker, and this book brings him to life as a man of courage whose actions and views on civil rights shaped American history.”
Juan A. Williams, Political Analyst, Fox News Channel; author, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965

“If there was a Mount Rushmore of civil rights icons, it would include Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and T.R.M. Howard. Howard was that important to the cause of civil rights. The powerful book, T.R.M. Howard, now brings to life this extraordinary figure in African-American history. Best known for his role in the civil rights movement, Howard was also a leading figure in African-American medicine, business, and social life. This is the story of Howard, but it is also the story of the black professionals and business people who contributed mightily to the cause of racial freedom. Readers will marvel at the life of Howard: a machine-gun toting advocate of protest and nonviolence who courted controversy within the movement and beyond. Based on the true story of Howard, the life and legend of the man could fill a Hollywood movie (or two). In the meantime, we have this magnificent biography to tell the story of larger-than-life figure, T.R.M. Howard.”
Jonathan J. Bean, Professor of History, Southern Illinois University

T.R.M. Howard’s wonderfully told story about an important personality sadly unknown to most students of the Civil Rights Movement is a more than welcome corrective. Dr. Howard’s life and accomplishments need to be better known!”
Julian Bond, former Chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

"T.R.M. Howard's contributions to the civil rights movement are too often neglected by all but the most specialized of scholars. David T. and Linda Royster Beito's magnificent biography, T.R.M. Howard, should finally bring Dr. Howard his due from Americans writ large. I applaud the Beitos for telling Dr. Howard's story with such power, honesty, and dignity."
Scott Douglas Gerber, Professor of Law, Ohio Northern University; Associated Scholar, Brown University's Political Theory Project; author, First Principles: The Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas

“David T. Beito, a professor of history at the University of Alabama, and Linda Royster Beito, the chair of the department of social sciences at Stillman College, are the authors of T.R.M. Howard. Fifty-four years ago today, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy visiting family in Mississippi, was abducted, mutilated and slain after he allegedly whistled at a white woman. Several days later, his horribly disfigured body was fished out of the Tallahatchie River. Many such tragedies had previously happened to black Americans and then been ignored. The Till case was different because of the efforts of a flamboyant and wealthy black planter and surgeon, T.R.M. Howard. Howard's place in history has been woefully slighted. Without him, we might never have heard of Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers or Operation PUSH. Howard was the crucial link connecting the Till slaying and the rise of the modern civil rights movement. But he was an unlikely civil rights hero. A prosperous businessman who spared no expense on his wardrobe, sped around in expensive Cadillacs, gambled on horses, ran a successful hospital that provided affordable healthcare, hunted big game in Africa and owned a 1,000-acre plantation, Howard promoted an agenda of entrepreneurship and self-help. . . . Why isn't this larger-than-life figure better known? Howard, a classically American "man on the make," is hard to pigeonhole. His secular orientation and pro-business ideas made him an anomaly in a civil rights movement dominated by church leaders and left-liberal activists. Politically, his activities offer something to please and offend everybody: A staunch Republican and ally of President Eisenhower, Howard was also a committed feminist whose clinics offered safe abortions in the years before Roe vs. Wade. But those who knew T.R.M. Howard (who died in 1976 at age 68) still speak about his energy, charisma and commitment. ‘“The man was dynamic,’ recalled Mamie Till-Mobley. ‘I just thought he was the greatest in the world.’”
Los Angeles Times

“It is my privilege and pleasure to have known and worked with Dr. Howard as he was pursuing the cause of civil rights in Mississippi with the same vim and vigor as it was being pursued in New York, Chicago, and other places. I was also afraid of him. This illuminating biography is a must read for anyone seeking to know more about the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in foregone years. Every acre was a drop of blood and every step was a tear.”
Benjamin L. Hooks, former Executive Director, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

"T.R.M. Howard's life was many things and its complexities and seeming paradoxes makes it especially important to get his story right. The great and admirable biography, T.R.M. Howard, displays the early Civil Rights era in all its messiness and grandeur. Howard was equal parts a business entrepreneur, a proponent of black self-help through fraternal societies, and a fearless national leader against racial injustice. To overlook Howard is to miss some important truths about the Civil Rights movement: its success was never guaranteed, it was a pick-up affair that relied on ingenuity and shrewd use of opportunities, and it depended at every turn on exceptional individuals like T.R.M. Howard."
Terence J. Pell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for Individual Rights; former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education

“The definitive work on the life of T.R.M. Howard. A fascinating narrative that illuminates important aspects of the African American experience in the twentieth century.”
Adam Fairclough, Professor Emeritus of American History, Leiden University Institute for History; author, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890-2000

"T.R.M. Howard is an engrossing, highly-informative book about one of the most astonishing figures in American history. It's the story of a unique individual who is not just pivotal to the civil rights movement, but without whom many of the best known leaders of the movement may never have emerged. David and Linda Beito have authored a must-read for anyone interested in American history, civil rights, and colorful, larger-than-life characters. T.R.M. Howard is a meticulously researched, epic biography of one of the most fascinating personalities and consequential periods in American history. It's an important contribution to America's understanding of civil rights and the black experience in the United States."
Peter N. Kirsanow, Member, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; former Member, National Labor Relations Board; former Chair, The Center for New Black Leadership

“One of the best biographies I have read in years. It works both as a revisionist project, challenging our understanding of the nature of black leadership in the South, and as a reclamation project, bringing back into the discussion a colorful and important transitional figure who has received little notice from scholars.”
Charles M. Payne, Jr., Frank P. Hixon Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago; author, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement

"The biography, T.R.M. Howard, is an impressive account of the life and contributions of a neglected hero of the black civil-rights movement. As a doctor, entrepreneur, and activist, Howard risked his life for the betterment of others. I highly recommend this excellent book for anyone interested in learning about forgotten and neglected historical figures."
Carol M. Swain, retired Professor of Political Science and Law, Vanderbilt University; Member, James Madison Society, Princeton University; author, Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration, and other books

"T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer resurrects this important historical figure from undeserved obscurity. It also provides a window to observe the complexity of the southern civil rights movement."
Robert E. Weems, Jr., Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History, Wichita State University

“Howard ‘consistently pushed an agenda of self-help, black business, and political equality whenever opportunities arose,’ write David T. Beito, a professor of history at the University of Alabama, and his wife Linda Royster Beito, a professor of social sciences at Stillman College, in their captivating and vividly detailed new biography, T.R.M. Howard. . . . Unlike other prominent civil rights leaders, though, Howard had little patience for the utopian schemes of the far left, declaring at one point that he wished ‘one bomb could be fashioned that would blow every Communist in America right back to Russia where they belong.’ In a similar vein, he maintained, ‘There is not a thing wrong with Mississippi today that real Jeffersonian democracy and the religion of Jesus Christ cannot solve.’ . . . No single individual brought down the South’s Jim Crow regime, but there were a few dozen who played essential parts. T.R.M. Howard convincingly elevates Howard to that rank. It also provocatively links Howard’s success to the controversial ideas of the 19th-century African-American leader Booker T. Washington, who had famously prioritized black economic independence over political liberty. . . . Indeed, one of the book’s most significant achievements is to highlight the indispensable role that black entrepreneurs and professionals played in the crucial early phase of the modern civil rights struggle. . . . For Howard, this focus on economic independence remained constant throughout his career. . . . Today, given the overwhelming attention that most historians have paid to King’s dazzling legacy, it’s easy to forget that fraternal societies and profit-minded entrepreneurs also led the fight for equal rights. With T.R.M. Howard, T.R.M. Howard’s achievements have finally received the attention they deserve.”

“T.R.M. Howard was not everyone’s idea of a civil rights hero, and his accomplishments have been widely neglected. But as historians David Beito and Linda Royster Beito demonstrate in their book T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer, he was in fact one of the most effective black civil rights leaders of his generation and a key figure in bringing civil rights to Mississippi and empowering black voters in Chicago.”

“’While historians have properly acknowledged the contributions of clergymen and grassroots activists” to the civil-rights movement, write David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, ‘they have too often neglected those made by entrepreneurs and black professionals.’ The Beitos’ new book—T.R.M. Howard—begins to set the record straight.”
National Review

T.R.M. Howard is the only biography of Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard, whose remarkable life (1908–1976) combined entrepreneurship, medical practice, civil-rights activism against segregation, philanthropy, and high living. He was an irrepressible but flawed character, a man on the make who grew up under Jim Crow and took advantage of the few opportunities that system of repression left open. He then used his wealth and persuasive abilities to combat the system. Howard proved that freedom and capitalism were powerful weapons that could be used against bigotry. . . . The Beitos have written a timely and enlightening book. Howard was a fascinating man, and his belief that free enterprise offers poor people (of all races) the path to success needs to be trumpeted as loudly as ever. America today is torn by counterproductive governmental “affirmative action” policies such as quotas for “minority-owned” contractors and racial preferences in college admissions. The book’s subtext is that what government needs to do to help poor people and minorities is to get out of their way.”
The Freeman

“Fame is fleeting, and those who during their lifetime attain the debatable benefits of public acclaim will often, upon their death, have their memory entombed with them. Such is the case with T.R.M. Howard, who for a time was one of America’s most widely known, colorful, and respected civil rights pioneers. The husband and wife team of David and Linda Beito have labored nearly a decade to write a biography, T.R.M. Howard, in hopes that they can raise the man’s memory from the grave. The book was worth the wait. Well-written and deeply researched, the authors immerse the reader into Dr. Howard’s world, one that crossed paths with a litany of American greats such as MLK, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Jesse Owens. Four days after seeing Dr. Howard give an impassioned speech at MLK’s Baptist Church, Rosa Parks took her famous stand against Jim Crow. She insisted that it was the thought of Emmett Till, who’s lynching was the subject of Dr. Howard’s speech, which spurred her to refuse to give up her bus seat. . . . Throughout the book, Mr. and Mrs. Beito do a sparkling job bringing to life Dr. Howard, his energy, his flamboyance and his personal bravery in battling to establish the rule of law in the South. But that is not all that recommends this work. . . . I have rarely put a book down so I could rise out of my seat and give it a standing ovation, but after that passage I couldn’t help myself. . . . By bringing the man so clearly into focus, warts and all, this finely written, incredibly important biography will do more to push Dr. Howard further into the background than to earn him the recognition he so richly deserves. Dr. Howard will remain largely forgotten, despite, and ironically because of, this spirited and engaging biography.”
Daily Kos


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News Date
“Emmett Till Murder Investigation Reopens” Research Fellow David Beito, co-author of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer appears on the Jim Bohannon radio show Thu., Aug. 30, 2018
“Reopening the Emmett Till hate crime murder of August, 1955” David Beito, co-author of T. R. M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer appears on the John Batchelor radio show Thu., Aug. 30, 2018
“Emmett Till, A New Investigation, and Vindication of T.R.M. Howard” Research Fellows David Beito and Linda Royster Beito, authors of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer Op-Ed on Real Clear History Fri., Aug. 10, 2018
“Truth and Memory in the Mississippi Delta: What the Emmett Till Case Means Today” Research Fellows David Beito and Linda Royster Beito, authors of T.R.M. Howard cited on National Endowment for the Humanities Tue., Jul. 31, 2018
“Civil Rights and the Right to Self-Defense Go Hand-in-Hand” Research Fellows David Beito and Linda Royster Beito, authors of T.R.M. Howard Op-Ed in The Washington Examiner Sun., Jul. 15, 2018
Research Fellow David Beito, co-author of T.R.M. Howard interviewed on the Jim Bohannon radio show Wed., Jun. 27, 2018
Research Fellow David Beito, co-author of T.R.M. Howard appears on the Mike Schikman show on WSVA radio (VA) Tue., Jun. 26, 2018
“Medgar Evers’s Civil Rights Mentor: T.R.M. Howard” Research Fellows Linda Royster Beito and David Beito, authors of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer Op-Ed in The Hill Thu., Jun. 14, 2018
“Fighting Bias with Business” Research Fellows David Beito and Linda Royster Beito, authors of T.R.M. Howard Op-Ed in the Washington Times Wed., May. 23, 2018
Research Fellow David Beito, co-author of T.R.M. Howard appears on the Lars Larson radio show Fri., May. 18, 2018
Research Fellows David Beito and Linda Royster Beito, co-authors of T.R.M. Howard appear on Iron Sharpens Iron radio Mon., May. 14, 2018
“Malcolm X’s Forgotten Kindred Soul” Research Fellows Linda Royster Beito and David Beito, authors of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer Op-Ed in The Hill Sat., May. 12, 2018
“On Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Remember Also T.R.M. Howard” Research Fellow David Beito, author of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer Op-Ed in the Washington Examiner Mon., Jan. 15, 2018


Past Events
Event Date
David and Linda Beito discuss and autograph copies of their Independent Institute book, T.R.M. Howard at Kentucky Historical Society Wed., Aug. 15, 2018
David and Linda Beito discuss and autograph copies of their Independent Institute book, T.R.M. Howard at Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Wed., Aug. 8, 2018
David and Linda Beito discuss and autograph copies of their Independent Institute book, T.R.M. Howard in Mound Bayou, MS Thu., Jul. 12, 2018
David and Linda Beito discuss and autograph copies of their Independent Institute book, T.R.M. Howard at BookExpo America in New York City Fri., Jun. 1, 2018


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