November 4, 2015

Longtime Congressman Howard Coble ’53 Dies at 84

Guilford College is mourning the loss of alumnus and devoted supporter J. Howard Coble ’53, who died Nov. 3 following an extended illness.

The retired U.S. Congressman and Greensboro native was 84. He was a long-term member of the College’s Board of Visitors, who in 2014 named their annual community forum the J. Howard Coble Leadership Forum in his honor.

The visitation and funeral service will be held Tuesday, Nov. 10, at Westover Church in Greensboro.

“The entire Guilford College family is saddened at the death of our beloved alumnus Howard Coble,” said President Jane Fernandes. “In a long life dedicated to public service, Howard was a humble and capable leader who was deeply committed to his nation and a friend to the constituents he served as a Congressman in North Carolina's Sixth District.

“We are very proud that Howard chose Guilford College for his undergraduate education and that he used the critical thinking and problem solving skills he learned at Guilford for the benefit of so many. Personally, I am grateful for the kind and gracious welcome he afforded me on my first day as president, and will dearly miss him.”

Read a story about Howard from the Summer 2015 Guilford College Magazine: “Never Forget Where You Came From.”

Howard was elected to the U.S. House in 1984 and served from 1985-2015. A Republican, he was so popular at the peak of his legislative career that in four general elections he ran without opposition from a Democrat. Prior to his election to the U.S. House, he served in the N.C. General Assembly.

Howard was chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee that deals with intellectual property. As chairman, he was responsible for landmark legislation that reformed the nation’s patent and copyright laws, along with bringing the nation’s laws dealing with satellite transmissions into the modern era.

As a longtime member of the House Transportation committee, Howard secured federal funds to construct Greensboro’s urban loop, upgrade the Piedmont Triad International Airport and assist the Triad’s mass transit needs with funds to modernize the J. Douglas Galyon ’53 Depot and purchase buses for the PART system.

His military service included five and a half years of active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and 18 years with the Coast Guard Reserve. His last reserve assignment was as commanding officer of the unit in Wilmington, N.C.

A product of Guilford County public schools, Howard attended Appalachian State University before enrolling at Guilford College and earning a history degree in 1958 (he entered college with students graduating in 1953 and Guilford recognizes him as a member of that class). He earned his law degree from UNC Chapel Hill in 1962.

Claire Massagee Lanier ’12, who worked for Howard 2012-15, spoke about him for a story in the Summer 2015 Guilford College Magazine.

“It’s amazing he was elected,” Claire said. “He’s someone who doesn’t brag about himself, he doesn’t strategize, and he’s not a good fundraiser. We’re lucky he was elected. People like Howard don’t get elected. People like Howard don’t push themselves forward for attention.

“Students talk about living honorably and justly, and it starts with you. No one could do that more than Howard. I see the people he gives to; the way he treats people. He’s never looking for the most important person in the room.”