Frank Howard
Class of 1946

©Published on March 7, 2003

Frank Howard, 74, behind lake's white, blue, red lights, dies
By Peggy Stinnett STAFF WRITER Friday, March 07, 2003 -

Frank Howard Frank Howard, a beloved and dynamic Oakland attorney, who conceived red, white and blue lights for Lake Merritt's Necklace of Lights and led many other community projects, died suddenly Wednesday. He was 74.

His sister Sue said he had undergone surgery Feb. 25 to remove a benign stomach tumor. He had been released from the hospital and was in his doctor's office when he became fatally ill. There will be an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Howard was born in Oakland in 1929. He attended Oakland schools and graduated from Oakland High School and the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949. He then joined the U.S. Air Corps.

After military service, he attended Hastings Law School and married Phyllis McKay of Piedmont, who preceded him in death. Frank and Phyllis had four children, John, Jennifer, James and William, and seven grandchildren, all of whom live on the East Coast.

His first job was with East Bay Municipal Utility District where he stayed more than 36 years. When President Ronald Reagan took office, he called Howard to Washington, D.C., where he received a presidential appointment that lasted the eight years of the Reagan administration.

When he returned to Oakland, he became a volunteer with boundless energy for Oakland projects. His latest, still to be completed, is the reconstruction of the Lake Merritt docks, starting with the 17th Street dock opposite the Lake Merritt Hotel.

He conceived of red, white and blue lights around Lake Merritt and executed their installation for one of Oakland's observances of the first anniversary of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. He also personally raised the money to pay for the installation.

The colored lights were so popular with the community that they remained up for Memorial Day and until recently when they were returned to all white.

Howard also did pro bono legal work for veterans' appeals, served the Boy Scouts of America, formed the Piedmont Youth Bagpipe Band, and served on the boards of the Pardee Museum and Children's Fairyland. He was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and the Bellevue Club.

His friend and fellow breakfast clubber Bill Moore, said of Howard: "Frank was a dynamo. He was always politicking for something and while he could maneuver among the powerful, he was also interested in the little guy. Who will step forward to carry on his efforts? Frankly, he's irreplaceable. It was almost as though he knew the clock was running, and he had to squeeze every little thing into the time he had. I can't imagine anyone doing all the things he did. Frank is gone, and I'll miss him like a father."

Howard is survived by his sister Sue Howard of Walnut Creek, and his children and grandchildren. Memorial services are yet to be announced.