Jim Howard in spotlight; Lifelong Eureka resident, 98, surprised by tribute

Jim Howard, Rotary Club of Eureka's most senior member, said he had a slight indication something special was brewing for the club's meeting this month, but he was mostly shocked by the surprise tribute.

"If I had known I was going to get my photo taken, I would have worn a dressier jacket," Howard said. "There are so many people here. It feels fantastic to be honored. I'm very thankful."

Howard, 98, came to Eureka when he was 6 months old and has been a member of the club for over 40 years. Around 100 fellow club and community members gathered at the Eureka Elks Lodge on Monday to celebrate his contributions to not only the club but the entire area.

"Jim actually retains legendary status among us," Eureka Mayor Frank Jager said.

Howard served on the Eureka City Council for 18 years, on the Eureka Housing Authority for three years and was president of the Eureka chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also owned his own shoeshine business for over 30 years, with customers that included boxing champ Joe Louis and Sen. Alan Cranston.

"In a beautiful and isolated area with so few people of color, we often look to our elders for guidance," Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods Executive Director Liz Smith said.

Smith said Howard is an ideal inspiration for everyone in the community before she awarded him a medal for a NAACP lifetime achievement award and the crowd stood for just one of several uproarious ovations during the tribute.

"Truth be told, I hate him," previous president of Rotary Club of Eureka Will Kay joked, referring to Howard. "Well, maybe 'hate' is too strong of a word. I envy you. I'd like to be more like you. Jim is a rare, special person. He is dependable and accomplished. He is a gem. I call him 'doctor' because he makes you feel better."

Soon after joining the club in 1973, Howard asked to take on the Spangler Raffle and has since helped the club collect over $160,000 for the Humboldt County Office of Education. It was announced during the tribute that the raffle will now officially be known as the Spangler-Howard Raffle.

"I'm 98 years old and it's hard for me to get excited, but I'm glad to be alive," Howard said.

Jillian Singh can be reached at 441-0509 or Jsingh@times-standard.com

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