Former Chapel Hill Mayor and prominent North Carolina citizen, Jonathan Broome Howes, 78, of Chapel Hill died Sunday morning May 31, 2015.
Jonathan was born and grew up in Fountain City, Tennessee, the son of Robert Milton Howes and Margaret Broome Howes. He was a 1959 graduate of Wittenberg University where he was a cheerleader and senior class president and met his wife, Mary. Jonathan and Mary were married in August 1959 and moved to Chapel Hill where he earned a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in Chapel Hill, daughter Anne was born. In 1960, they moved to the Washington DC area, where Jonathan worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Kennedy administration. Betsy and Bo were born during this time and the family enjoyed living in Holmes Run Acres in Falls Church, Virginia.
In 1966, Jonathan got his second Master’s degree this time in Public Administration from Harvard University on a National Institute of Public Administration fellowship. In 1970, he became Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he served for 23 years.
Jonathan was viewed as the epitome of a public servant, and had a long and distinguished public life at the local, state, and national level. He was an elected Alderman/Council Member for the Town of Chapel Hill for 12 years from 1975-1987, and was a two-term Mayor of Chapel Hill starting in 1987. One of his major strengths was in the area of Town - Gown relationships, exemplified by the University-funded Carolina Blue firetrucks which are still used in Chapel Hill today. As Mayor, he was also instrumental in the creation and support of the then new Chapel Hill public library.
Jonathan’s career regularly melded public life and professional life. He instituted regional planning for the Research Triangle area through personal and professional support of the Triangle J Council of Governments. He also promoted regionalism and good government at the national level through leadership roles at the National Association of Public Administration and National Association of Regional Councils.
In 1992, he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources for the State of North Carolina by Governor Jim Hunt, where he served for five years. Under his leadership, the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund was established with a dedicated revenue stream for NC Parks. In recognition of his service, the State conferred upon him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which is the State’s highest civilian honor.
After his term as Secretary, Jonathan returned to the University in a variety of roles including Special Assistant to the Chancellor, where he co-chaired the UNC Campus Master Plan. He also provided leadership as Interim Executive Director to WUNC radio, of which he was a longtime supporter and sustainer. Outside the University, he continued to serve in leadership roles at the NC Aquarium Society, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Audubon NC.
Prior to retirement, Jonathan chaired the board of Carol Woods Retirement Community, and later he and Mary became residents and involved participants in the community. Jonathan also was recently tapped to serve as Interim Director of the NC Botanical Garden, another organization dear to his heart.
Jon was an avid Tarheel fan. His motto was “If there’s a ball in the air, he and Mary were there.” He was a season ticket holder for UNC basketball and football for over 40 years, and loved reliving great Tarheel moments in sports. His other cherished titles included “Chapel Hill Town Treasure” and News & Observer Tarheel of the Week. He loved the annual family beach trips to Emerald Isle, and international travel. He and Mary took a unique and cherished international trip with each of their eight grandchildren.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Mary, daughters Anne Anderson (Dave) and Betsy (Chuck Bean), and son Bo (Pat), and grandchildren Margaret, KK, and David Anderson, Benjamin and Rebecca Bean, and Jonathan, Max and Matthew Howes, his sister Nancy Howes Robinson and brother-in-law Donald Cook (Rose).
As he stated at the time he was honored as a Chapel Hill Town Treasure, “Public service is in my blood and it’s been an honor to serve our community. Everything I did, I did because I felt called to do it…” In the spirit of his life and public calling, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to Triangle Land Conservancy, North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation, or WUNC Radio.
Details about a public memorial service will be shared at a future date.