In Memoriam: David Asbury Howard, Sr.

In Memoriam: David Asbury Howard, Sr.
David Asbury Howard, Sr.

Feb. 14, 1920 to Dec. 15, 2019

Though never a shipper or cargo carrier, David Asbury Howard Sr. was one of the most influential people in the maritime industry. From his office in Jacksonville, the writer and publisher informed leaders in shipping and navigation of emerging and complex regulations, earned the trust and respect of industry representatives worldwide, and received many awards, including Shipping Industry Man of the Year.

By the time he died at age 99 on Dec. 15, 2019, Howard had called Jacksonville’s Historic District home for nearly three quarters of a century. After serving with the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II in the North Atlantic, North Africa, Caribbean and Pacific, in 1945 he started working for United Press International in Raleigh, N.C.

On Dec. 23, 1946, he married Kitty Jo Hickman from Jacksonville and the newlyweds settled into an apartment in Avondale then started raising a family in a small home in Ortega around the corner from her parents. When their third child, Hayes Howard, was a toddler, the family moved from Baltic Circle to Venetia where their four children grew up. Hayes’ son Edward now lives in that house.

Two years after his mother died in 2000, his father married Nancy Cavanaugh Tucker, who survives him, said Hayes, calling them both extraordinary women.

Lovingly remembered by his three sons and daughter as a hard worker and near-perfectionist who had extremely high expectations of all of them, Howard was respected by his neighbors, friends and business associates for his dedication to his family and profession, strong convictions, wit and intelligence.

“He stood firm in what he believed, but he would listen to reason. He liked to be in control of what was happening, which he passed down to us,” Hayes said. “He enjoyed life.”

Born Feb. 14, 1920, in Nashville, N.C., to educators Fred and Annie Howard, he was raised in nearby Black Creek. He started college at the University of North Carolina as a math major until, as he often claimed, a B grade early on changed his direction. Not willing to accept a B for such a precise science, Howard switched majors and graduated from the university with a journalism degree in 1940.

New to Jacksonville, the young reporter worked for The Florida Times-Union covering the port and maritime industry and quickly learning the ropes, so to speak. Because of his expert knowledge and accurate reporting, industry leaders asked him to start a port magazine devoted to their trade.

David Asbury Howard, Sr.
David Asbury Howard, Sr.

The first edition of the Jacksonville Seafarer came out in 1952. He formed Howard Publications, Inc., in 1954 and launched the Florida Journal of Commerce, a maritime and trade publication, in 1959.

“As a reporter he understood the value of building relationships and being able to talk to people about their concerns and issues, especially in a specialized business such as international logistics,” said Hayes, who became his dad’s business partner and now serves as president of ComPair Data, Inc., operator of the BlueWater Reporting ocean shipping research service.

In the early 1970s, with increased global competition and the introduction of containerization, both carriers and shippers looked to Howard to create a national publication to assist them with the complexity of serving international markets. “He knew people on the carrier side managing international cargo and the shipper side, such as DuPont and Corning people,” Hayes said. “They knew his reputation as a reporter, and when they didn’t understand the changes taking place, they turned to him for help. Both shippers and carriers, seeing a need for a publication to help bridge the misunderstandings that were occurring because of the growing complexity, encouraged my father to start American Shipper.”

In 1974, Howard and his son Hayes expanded the Florida Journal of Commerce and renamed it American Shipper. Howard, who became editor emeritus in 2000, remained involved with the publication until they sold it to FreightWaves, Inc., last year. Also, in 2000, Howard was inducted into the Maritime Hall of Fame for his editorial contributions to the development of the maritime industry.

“It was a good partnership,” said Hayes, who was in charge of sales. “He had the knowledge of the industry and was an incredibly strong editor who had the ability to train young reporters how to go after information and present it.”

Howard led by example and if there was an error in the magazine his employees knew to call the people involved before they saw it. “He believed very strongly in being honest and fair, and if you make a mistake, you own up to it as quickly as possible,” Hayes said.

An avid reader, mostly of science and history, Howard was happiest outdoors—from family trips to the Okefenokee Swamp to cultivating wife Nancy’s rose garden in his later years. He enjoyed yearly trips to the mountains, too. Acknowledging his support of education and the environment, his family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Okefenokee Swamp Park Foundation Education Fund, 5700 OSP Road, Waycross, GA 31503.

In addition to Nancy and Hayes, Howard is survived by sons David and Linn, daughter Kathy Houser, Nancy’s daughters Jane Sigalos and Mary Fouraker, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. One goal he barely missed was living to be 100 like his siblings. Sister Margaret Nicholson is 103 and sister Francis Norton is 101. His brother, Fred, died last year at 104.

Hayes believes his father will be remembered mostly for his honesty and approach to life. “He was always honest and straight forward with everyone,” he said.

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