WILLIAM J. HOWARD, sheriff of Wichita county, with residence at Wichita Falls, is a pioneer of this town and county, in fact, came here before either had a corporate existence, and has been most prominently identified with the public affairs and material progress ever since. He is by nature a pioneer, loves to head the vanguard of civilization to a new country and follow closely under the star of empire as it takes it westward way. Perhaps no other man in Northwest Texas has had more experience with the rough elements and the pioneer affairs of the country than Sheriff Howard, and he is therefore all the more a model officer in his present position and has made a high record for efficiency and straightforward conduct.
Mr. Howard was born in 1844, so that he is at the present writing sixty years of age, but still a hearty and vigorous specimen of native American manhood. The place where his career began was Calhoun county, Alabama. His parents were Francis and Irena (Jones) Howard, and his father was a planter and, though born in Georgia, spent most of his life in Alabama, where both he and his wife died. Mr. Howard spent his boyhood days on the Alabama farm. The stirrings of ambition and desire for adventure were early manifest in him, and when hardly seventeen years old, in January, 1861, before the great rebellion was dreamed of by many people and some weeks before a single southern state had seceded, he went to Pensacola, Florida, and enrolled himself for three months in the Confederate cause when the approaching conflict should become a matter of fact. When these three months were up he re-enlisted, this time in the Tenth Alabama Regiment, and was sent into Virginia. He was a Confederate soldier, brave and loyal, throughout the remainder of the war, being in various regiments, and wound up his service as a trooper in Forrest’s cavalry.
The storm and stress of war by no means ameliorated his venturesome spirit, and he had not long been a private citizen before he felt the longings for the strenuous life. Some time after the war he was married, at his old home place, to Miss Louisa Davis, and shortly thereafter they started west. They lived in Louisiana one year and then crossed the state line into Texas. They located at old Springfield, then the county seat of Limestone county (the name of this town now being Groesbeck). After farming there for two years he followed up the frontier to a point further west, and in 1880 located in what is now Wichita Falls, neither town or county being organized until 1882, and his being the thirteenth family in the county. He helped organize the county, and was the first man elected to the office of justice of the peace and was the only justice in the county for six years. His first office was in a tent occupied jointly with Robert E. Huff, now the president of the First National Bank.
For many years Mr. Howard served as deputy sheriff, and the duties of that office took him much among the desperadoes and bad characters that were wont to infest Texas frontier towns. The “bad men” were in the habit of raiding the towns and surrounding country, and it required much coolness and bravery as well as tract to deal with these fellows. The disturbers were usually either cowboys who came with the purpose of “shooting up the town,” or the villainous gangs that infested the Comanche country, in Indian Territory, across the Red river. Such frontier life has always appealed to Mr. Howard, and he settled down permanently in Wichita Falls only that he might have a home for his children and afford them the advantages of education. In November, 1902, he was elected sheriff of Wichita county on the Democratic ticket, the position of tax collector forming part of this office. Having devoted some years already to the duties as to make him an unusually well equipped officer, and the people of the county greatly appreciate his efficiency and his sterling personal qualities. He is deeply concerned in the welfare of the town and county in general, and is very popular among all the citizens. For some years he was engaged in farming and raising stock in this county and at one time was hide and animal inspector for the county.
Mr. Howard affiliates with the Masonic order, and he and his wife are members of the Baptist church. There are seven children in their family, as follows: Charles C., Dean, Mrs. Irene Tucker, Mrs. Texie Hawkins, Arthur, William and Josie.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, p. 684.