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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Women in Preservation: Expanding the Importance of Education - Patricia Jackson Howard

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

SOURCES: Historic Columbus Foundation: Champion of Columbus' Historic Resources (1966-2006) by Dr. John S. Lupold.


In the l970s, the best way to be introduced to Columbus history was to join an HCF heritage bus tour. On such a tour, one explored the Historic District, wandered into the Springer Opera House, and rode all over the county to see the antebellum mansions. The tours gave visitors a wonderful introduction to the city, but the rising cost of bus rentals doomed these tours. HCF has also partnered to develop other tours aimed at teaching Columbus history. Working with Judith Grant-Shabazz and the Mayor’s Commission on Women and Minorities, HCF helped to create the Black Heritage Trail that identified twenty-six local sites and structures associated with the history of Columbus’ Black community. In the process, this tour introduced prominent Black leaders and cultural figures, such as Ma Rainey and Alma Thomas as well as Black religious and civic institutions.

The Alma Thomas House, Rosehill Neighborhood

From its earliest days, staff and volunteers guided classes of school children through the growing number of HCF houses at the corner of Broadway and Seventh Street. In 1988, the naming of Heritage Corner coincided with the beginning of a formal heritage education program for the schools. Guides used the houses for illustrating a range of historical periods. HCF also launched a major initiative to teach local history in elementary and middle school classrooms. In 1988, in cooperation with the Junior League, HCF assembled packets of material focusing on Columbus for teachers. Junior League volunteers went into classes and taught while HCF gave orientation sessions for teachers. In 1989 Janice Biggers announced her retirement. The HCF Board selected Patricia Jackson Howard to succeed her as the second executive director for the organization. Howard’s family roots extended back to the first generation of Columbus, and she was keenly aware and proud of her family history and local history in general.

Patricia Jackson Howard was born in 1946 in Louisville, Kentucky, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. M.W. Jackson, Jr. Moving to Columbus at an early age, Patti grew up in Columbus and graduated from Columbus High School in 1964. She married Stephen Morris Howard, and they were blessed with two daughters – Kelly Howard Butts and Ann Blackmar Howard. Patti and her husband Stephen preserved a historic house on Steam Mill Road. She had worked as a volunteer for the Junior League and for Historic Columbus. Over time, her attachment to the Foundation grew, as she served on its executive board and chaired the Salisbury Fair. Stephen also generously contributed his time to any HCF project. Bringing with her a broad base of knowledge that she had shared with hundreds of Muscogee County schoolchildren during her two tenures as an elementary school teacher at Clubview Elementary School and Reese Road Elementary School, Patti became an immediate success at all that she did as HCF’s chief executive.

Patti and Stephen Howard

Because of her background in the classroom and her desire to help teachers integrate more Columbus history into their lessons, Patti Howard increased the involvement of HCF in heritage education. Her initial goals were to increase the educational role of HCF in the community and to promote Heritage Corner as a component in regional heritage tourism. On the best of days – when 700 Broadway (HCF’s then headquarters) was quiet and lots of good work could be accomplished, Patti would savor the opportunity to do the necessary writing, make the necessary phone calls, and speak to staff about upcoming priorities. On the worst of days – when the Salisbury Fair was only a weekend away, when the monthly board meeting was yet to be planned, when the quarterly newsletter was almost finished, when three buses filled with out of town retirees were due any moment, when the wrecking ball was poised and waiting to fall on an important District property, when the phone would not stop ringing – when all of this was happening at once – Patti would laugh her infectious laugh and proceed with the confidence and calmness that would become her hallmark. No matter what the circumstances, Patti was always prepared for the unpredictable daily events that comprised the life on Heritage Corner.

In 1991, because of Patti’s leadership and HCF’s pioneer efforts in this area, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation selected Historic Columbus and the Muscogee County School District to pilot its Marguerite N. Williams Heritage Education Program. It funded the development and implementation of a curriculum and training program that would then be shared with other preservation groups. This program sponsored a series of creative teacher training programs organized by William Gantt in cooperation with The Columbus Museum that combined classroom work with field trips and meals at landmark local restaurants.

This would lead to the development of the central element in HCF’s heritage education program, a series of books that presented local history and architecture for appropriate grade levels. A donation from the family of Mary White Coppage enabled HCF to produce A Historic Tour of Our Town, Columbus, Georgia (1993), a coloring book that presented similar material for third graders. All eighth graders received Roger Harris’s creative and informative Our Town: An Introduction to the History of Columbus, Georgia (1992). For the high schools, HCF allocated $20,000 to produce The Architectural Styles of Our Town: Columbus, Georgia (1996) with text by Marilyn Laufer and drawings by Garry Pound. In addition to these sets of books, videos, and teachers’ guides. In addition, county-wide seminars for teachers introduced them to Our Town materials, and copies of Clason Kyle’s book on Columbus, Images, were provided to each media center.

Patti Howard and Kent Butler

By the early 1990s, HCF was a major player in Columbus and deeply involved in any issue relating to history, architecture, planning, beautification, community development, and zoning especially in the downtown area. In some cases, the Foundation initiated major projects; in other cases, the organization responded to changes that threatened the historic fabric. Patti’s objectives also included National Register recognition for more of our community's historic neighborhoods and expanding HCF’s membership base into more diverse constituencies. Unfortunately, her tragic illness and early death deprived Historic Columbus and Columbus of a significant civic leader. As a memorial to her, HCF established the annual Patricia Jackson Howard Scholarship to a high school senior in the Muscogee County schools. Patti’s passion for expanding our community’s knowledge of its history has been the guiding light for the organization’s continued education programs. Over the years, Historic Columbus has given tours for thousands of school age children and provided thousands of books on the history of our town for the classrooms thanks to her vision. HCF has also continued to expand its adult programming – which is showcased below. Patti’s good work and her fine example have continued to affect children and adults throughout Columbus for the past thirty years.

Current Heritage Education Programming This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Patricia Jackson Howard Scholarship. The scholarship was created to honor the memory of HCF’s second executive director, Patricia Jackson Howard. Mrs. Howard promoted the mission of Historic Columbus for many years as a volunteer and employee of the organization. It was her wish that the scholarship be awarded based on merit and need. All graduating seniors from Muscogee County public schools are eligible to apply. To date, $48,000 in scholarship funding has been made in Patti’s name. This year, the scholarship has been raised to $5,000! Applications for the scholarship are available on our website. The deadline for applications is Friday, April 14th! Click on the Education tab on this website and you can then click on the PJH Scholarship page.

Eli Hardegree, 2022 Howard Scholarship Recipient

A little over ten years ago, Historic Columbus began the transition of three former house museums (700 Broadway, the Pemberton House, and the Woodruff Farmhouse) to become single family homes once again. The Pemberton House became the home of local historian Dr. John Lupold and, as a result, we needed to find a new location to continue to tell the story of Dr. Pemberton and Coca-Cola. Since 2012, the Dr. John S. Pemberton and Coca-Cola exhibit was a part of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau Welcome Center on 9th Street and Front Avenue. When the CCVB relocated to the 11th Street YMCA, the exhibit needed to find a new home. We looked at a few options, but when the W.C. Bradley Co. offered a space on the first floor of the newly renovated 11th Street YMCA building – it felt like the right fit. We are excited for this new opportunity to share this important Columbus story with those who visit this historic building and our community. We hope you will stop by to see it!

Historic Columbus has officially opened a new exhibit at RiverCenter! Celebrate Columbus takes you through the history of our community’s cultural arts past highlighting early music and travelling artists, theaters, and cultural arts icons like Blind Tom, Nunnally Johnson, Ma Rainey, Alma Thomas, and Carson McCullers. It is located on the Mezzanine Level of the Lobby and will be up until July, then the third exhibit on our industrial history will go up!

Editor's Note: I am so fortunate to be able to do my job in a place that I truly love and for an organization that has helped raised me from birth. Without Janice, Weezie, Patti, and Virginia, I wouldn’t be here. I am more grateful to them than words can express. NEXT WEEK: Virginia Tucker Peebles, HCF's third executive director and her incredible contributions to neighborhood revitalization that have enabled many historic neighborhoods to continue to thrive today.

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