Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane D. Williams on Monday joined a chorus of tributes for the late president of the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) President, William R. “Bill” Howard.
Just less than a month before the massive West Indian American Day Carnival Parade takes place on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3, the president of the organizing group died.
Howard, the African American-born WIADCA president, was found dead in his Brooklyn home early Sunday morning, relatives said. He was 75.
Howard “passed away in his sleep,” said his family in a statement. “The body was found not long after 5 am.
“Coroner’s report indicated he died of natural causes,” the statement added. “We are all devastated. “We loved Bill dearly and will miss him terribly. We would ask that our privacy is respected as we grieve during this very difficult time.”
Williams, Deputy Leader of New York City Council and representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said the Caribbean community in New York has lost “a giant.”
“I offer my prayers for peace and comfort to the family of Bill Howard,” said Williams, also a candidate for New York State Lieutenant Governor. “He spent his life in service to his community and dedicated to advancing the causes of those around him.
“In business and in public service, he was an ardent advocate for people in need,” he added. “In his decades of friendship with Shirley Chisholm [late Caribbean American congresswoman], he was at her side through countless challenges and successes.
“After her death, he continued to fight for her legacy and the causes she championed,” Williams continued. “And I am personally deeply grateful for his support of bringing the Shirley Chisholm Community Center to East Flatbush [Brooklyn], providing a neighborhood with resources that are desperately needed and paying tribute to a woman who fought for those very resources with Bill Howard at her side.”
In addition, Williams said Howard was “an institution of black and Caribbean culture.
“He knew and shared history with those around him, because he lived it,” he said. “In addition to his work in education, in medicine, and more, Bill was the president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, an organization whose work has been a formative part of my life and with whom I have been honored to work for years.
“What Bill created has brought joy and resources to the people of New York, and I thank him for his support and for a lifetime of service,” Williams added.
Howard — who was born on Jan. 1, 1943 and grew up in Fredericksburg, Va — was a life-long friend of the late Chisholm.
Chisholm, who had represented the then 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn, was the first Black woman to run for president of the United States. She was the daughter of a Barbadian mother and a Guyanese father.
He managed Chisholm’s personal finances, as well as the finances for her political campaigns, his family said.
It said Howard was 23-years-old in 1965 when then New York State legislator Chisholm and her mentor and campaign manager, the late Wesley McDonald Holder, asked Howard to be her campaign finance manager.
Howard served as first vice president of the Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute for Children and also participated in the former President Barack Obama’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony in tribute to Chisholm in Washington, D.C., the family said.
In a tribute on the 50th anniversary of WIADCA last Labor Day, Howard said the carnival group’s volunteer membership “has personified their determination to present world-class programming of the Caribbean to the world.”
As expected, news of Howard’s death spread like wildfire in the Caribbean community in New York, and has “shaken the political and non-profit world,” the family said.
Trinidadian Jean Alexander, who retired earlier this year after serving as chief marketing agent and public relations consultant for WIADCA for about 45 years, said she knew Howard for 44 years.
“I was so shocked I could not respond,” Alexander told Caribbean Life on Sunday on learning about Howard’s death. “He died just before Labor Day.
“He was a good friend,” she added. “He knew a lot of people, and he knew how to go about to get help [for others]. Me, personally, I will always be missing that man.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement late Sunday that he was “blessed to have had the honor to call Bill Howard a friend, an honor that so many of my neighbors across Brooklyn enjoyed over his many decades of public service.
“His legacy will forever be tied with that of the great representative Shirley Chisholm, as well as that of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association,” he said. “Bill’s leadership and guidance were indispensable to both of these true Brooklyn institutions, as was his role in strengthening the welfare and unity of the borough’s diverse African-American and Caribbean-American communities.
“I am a better public servant, and more importantly a better man, for knowing him and receiving his incalculable counsel,” Adams added. “I hope this year’s Labor Day parade will be dedicated to his treasured memory.”
The family said funeral arrangements for Howard will be “forthcoming.”