The varied career of Edgar Howard (1858-1951), one of Nebraska’s most colorful public figures, spanned more than forty years and won him wide state and national recognition. Entering politics as a supporter of William Jennings Bryan, Howard later served six terms in Congress (1922-34) and was also a Nebraska legislator and lieutenant governor. A simultaneous career as editor of the Columbus Telegram gained his vigorous writings such distinction that he was compared with Kansas editor William Allen White. He championed agriculture, small business, organized labor, and the common man. His trademark was long hair, worn in a down-to-the-collar bob, complemented by a long black frock coat, string tie, and hat with a six-inch crown and wide brim.
Born in 1858 in Osceola, Iowa, Howard attended Iowa College of Law at Des Moines, but left before graduation because of a disagreement with his professors. (Some years later he passed an examination and was admitted to the practice of law in Nebraska.) After leaving law college, Howard roamed the country as a tramp printer and writer.
In 1883, in association with George A. Magney, he bought The Papillion Times. While publishing his newspaper (interrupted by a brief stint on the Dundy Democrat at Benkelman), he practiced law and served four years as county judge of Sarpy County. In 1894 he was elected state representative from Sarpy County.
In 1900 Howard sold the Papillion paper and bought the Columbus Telegram, with which he was associated for the rest of his life. He was an early supporter of William Jennings Bryan, and he served as Bryan’s private secretary in Washington for a few months in 1891 during Bryan’s first term in Congress. Howard himself ran for Congress on the Democratic ticket in 1900 but was defeated. In 1916 he was elected lieutenant governor of Nebraska, serving one term. He ran again for Congress in 1922 and was elected. Surviving subsequent Republican landslides in other elections, he was elected to his sixth term in 1932, serving twelve consecutive years. He was defeated in 1934 by Republican Karl Stefan. He failed in an attempt to defeat Stefan in 1938. Howard’s last active participation in national politics was as delegate from Nebraska to the Democratic national convention in Chicago in 1944.