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Celebrity Grads: William J. Howell [City of Fairfax Schools]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor / City School Close-Up
Celebrity Grads

WILLIAM J. HOWELL, Class of 1964

WHEN FAIRFAX HIGH GRADUATE WILLIAM J. Howell was sworn in as Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates on Jan. 8, 2003, sitting in the gallery were several of his Fairfax High school buddies—as well as his favorite chemistry teacher Tucker Winn.

“It was a big moment, and my high school friends are very dear to me,” says the Class of 1960 alumnus. “I didn’t want them to miss it.”

Interestingly, Howell – who spent most of his youth in Alexandria, VA – was hesitant to make the change back in 1958 when his dad moved the family from Alexandria to a 10-acre dairy farm near Braddock Road.

“I didn’t relish leaving my boyhood friends, but within a few weeks of starting school at Fairfax High I’d made even better friends,” he admits. “I really enjoyed my time there.”

After graduation, Howell went to the University of Richmond, graduating in 1964 with a degree in business administration. He then attended law school at UVA, but after graduating in 1967 decided he didn’t want to practice law.

Instead, Howell became a banker and went to work for Wachovia Bank in Winston-Salem, NC. In 1977 he moved back to Virginia and worked for the National Bank of Fredericksburg.

A decade later, he decided to try his hand at politics and won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. For the next 16 years, he moved up through the ranks and eventually became the chairman of the influential Courts of Justice committee. When his party took control of the House in 2000, Speaker Vance Wilkins became the first Republican speaker in 100 years.

But negative allegations forced Wilkins to step down last year, and friends encouraged Howell to run for the position. He won by a unanimous vote.

As for students who are currently enrolled in the City of Fairfax schools, this successful graduate offers the following advice:

“Don’t get caught speeding around Fairfax Circle like I did,” he chuckles. “But seriously, the City Schools are terrific, and students should take advantage of all the programs offered. Fairfax High certainly prepared me well for college. So while you are in school, realize that you are in good hands, and in good company. Enjoy yourself fully.”


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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.