Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview
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§60 Reverend Duncan Howlett

The Reverend Duncan Howlett was born May 15, 1906 in Newton, Massachusetts. He received his S.B. degree from Harvard in 1928 and an LL.B. degree in 1931. During that same year, Howlett was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. In 1933 he returned to Harvard and was awarded the S.T.B. degree with honors in 1936. He resumed his religious passion and was ordained a Unitarian minister and during the years of 1933–1938, served as minister of the Second Church, Unitarian, in Salem, Massachusetts. Howlett transferred to the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts until the mid-1940s and then continued to fulfill his minister’s duties at the First Church in Boston for 12 years. He persisted in his preaching at the All Souls Church in 1958 until he retired in 1968. Howlett completed his impressive and influential career by dedicating his time and services to the environment, especially forestry.

Reverend Howlett was also active in public affairs. In 1968 Howlett served on the presidential campaign staff for Hubert Humphrey. He was deeply concerned with his role in Unitarian denominational affairs and was a member on several committees and boards, such as The Beacon Press, Historical Library and the Christian Register. His combination of religious zeal and civic duty made Howlett a vocal and influential supporter during the Civil Rights Movement. He passed away in May 2003 at the age of 97. A wife and four children survive. His papers are housed at the Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine.

In a sermon before congregants at the Eighth Street Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Duncan Howlett offers a micro and local reading of the sit-in movements sweeping the south. His questions are several: what are the meanings of the sit-ins, what are the moral dilemmas faced by participants, and what is the

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