Roy Wilson Howard, the son of a railroad brakeman, was born in Gano, Ohio, on 1st January 1883. After the death of his father he was forced to end his education in order to contribute to the family income. He found work on the Indianapolis News and eventually became a journalist.
Howard eventually became news editor of the Cincinnati Post, a newspaper owned by Edward W. Scripps, Ellen Browning Scripps, James Edmund Scripps, and Milton Alexander McRae. This group formed the Scripps-McRae League of Newspapers, giving it a controlling interest in 34 newspapers in 15 different states.
In 1907 Scripps-McRae company joined with others to form the news service, United Press International (UPI). Edward W. Scripps later said "I regard my life's greatest service to the people of this country to be the creation of the United Press." Scripps's main objective was to provide competition to the Associated Press. Scripps employed Howard as general manager of UPI. In 1912 he was promoted to president of UPI. Richard O'Connor has described Howard as a "small and eupeptic who had risen rapidly through the executive ranks and was possessed by towering ambitions". D added that this "tiny (five feet five) man in a pink or green shirt, a gaudy bow tie, and a checked suit" had a reputation for meanness.
Scripps was very fond of Howard and told Lincoln Steffens: "I'm a rich man, and that's dangerous, you know. But it isn't just the money that's the risk; it's the living around with other rich men. They get to thinking all alike, and their money not only talks, their money does their thinking, too.... So I don't think like a rich man. They talk about the owner of newspapers holding back his editors. It's the other way with me. I get me boys, bright boys, from the classes that read my papers; I give them the editorship and the management, with a part interest in the property, and, say, in a year or so, as soon as the profits begin to come in, they become conservative and I have to boot them back into their class."
In 1922 Edward W. Scripps transferred his business interests to his son, Robert Paine Scripps (1895-1938), who three years later joined forces with Howard to form the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain. During the Great Depression the number of newspapers under their control had fallen to 20. However, in 1927 he purchased his first newspaper in New York City, the New York Telegram.
In 1928 Heywood Broun, America's leading columnist was sacked by the New York World for writing in support of birth-control. Broun was offered employment by several newspaper owners. Dale Kramer the author of Heywood Broun (1949) has pointed out: "Roy Howard, the pompadoured, mustachioed young chairman of the Scripps-Howard board, was more persistent than anyone else. Broun would be of enormous assistance in Howard's ambition to make good in his venture into New York journalism... Broun's basic demand was freedom of expression. While about it, he was hopeful of reaching his goal of thirty thousand a year."
Howard agreed these terms and next to Broun's first column he wrote: "Ideas and opinions expressed in this column are those of one of America's most interesting writers, and are presented without regard to their agreement or disagreement with the editorial attitude of this paper". Robert Paine Scripps added: "Since Mr. Broun is writing under his own signature, we do not care what he writes as long as it is not libelous and as long as it is interesting."
In 1930 Heywood Broun became the Socialist Party of America candidate that took on Ruth Baker Pratt the Republican Party incumbent of the 17th District of New York. The Democratic Party candidate was Louis B. Brodsky. Howard objected to this decision and published an article in the New York Telegram explaining why Broun should stay out of politics. Broun summarized his complaints as "(1) No Scripps-Howard feature writer has ever gone to Congress. (2) The odds seem to be overwhelmingly against my election. (3) The profession of journalism is more important than that of politics. (4) Independence of thought precludes party membership."
In an article published on 19th August, 1930, Broun defended his candidacy: "Any working newspaperman is naturally pleased when the editor finds it necessary to sit down and write a piece. My gratification was double because in this case it gave me one more day of vacation. But, naturally, I am grieved to find Roy W. Howard enmeshed in error.... The real sticking point is party affiliation. I am quite sure that the fact of its being Socialist does not enter into the problem. Surely it would be far more embarrassing for a liberal newspaper to have its columnist affiliated with the Tammany machine or the Republican organization of Sam Koenig than to be serving under the leadership of Norman Thomas... But I am tired of hearing all this talk about how the honest average citizen should get into politics and not leave it to the machine professionals. I am tired of hearing this, because I am average and honest and yet, when I do get in, my own boss tells me that this is no business for me. It's everybody's business and nobody's business. But I am even more tired of standing with well-meaning liberals weaving a daisy chain of good intentions. I want to break that chain and enlist for duration. Here goes!"
During the campaign Broun was arrested while taking part in a demonstration in favour of 15,000 striking garment workers. Broun only spent two hours in custody. Although it gave him extra publicity it did not help his popularity. Richard O'Connor has argued: "Broun's arrest did not impress the old-guard Socialists who had suffered real punishment in the back rooms of police stations after being locked up for picketing or demonstrating in bygone struggles." Ruth Baker Pratt won the election with 19,899 votes. Louis B. Brodsky finished a close second with 19,248. Broun finished a poor third with 6,662 votes.
In December 1930 Ralph Pulitzer began negotiating with Roy W. Howard about the selling of the New York World. The sale went through and the last edition of the newspaper was published on 27th February, 1931. The Scripps-Howard organization now merged the two newspapers and gave it the name the New York World-Telegram .
Heywood Broun was worried about the merger and wrote on 28th February, 1931: "I sat and watched a paper die. We waited in the home of a man (Herbert Bayard Swope) who once had run it. A flash came over the phone. The World was ended.... The World fired me, and the Telegram gave me a job. Now, the Telegram owns the World. This is a fantastic set of chances almost like those which might appear in somebody's dream of revenge. But I never thought much of revenge. I wouldn't give a nickel for this one. If I could, by raising my hand, bring dead papers back to life I'd do so... I am a newspaperman. There are many things to be said for this new combination. It is my sincere belief that the Scripps-Howard chain is qualified by its record and its potentialities to carry on the Pulitzer tradition of liberal journalism. In fact, I'll go further and say that, as far as my personal experience goes, the Telegram has been more alert and valiant in its independent attitude than the World papers. Yet I hope, at least, that this may be the end of mergers. The economic pressure for consolidation still continues. A newspaper is, among other things, a business. And, even so, it must be more than that."
In August 1933, Broun joined forces with McAllister Coleman, Lewis Gannett, George Britt, Joseph Cookman, Doris Fleeson, Edward J. Angly, Allen Raymond, Frederick Woltman and Carl Randau to establish the American Newspaper Guild in an attempt to improve the wages of journalists. During this period many reporters were only paid $15 a week. Roy W. Howard, was bitterly opposed to the unionization of his employees and was very angry with Broun for forming this guild.
Broun was also a strong supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. His views were not shared by Howard and for the sake of "balance" decided to "offset Broun's liberal humanitarianism with the corrosive offerings of his opposite in ideology and temperament". Westbrook Pegler, the well-known Roosevelt hater. The two men were soon arguing about different issues on the pages of New York World-Telegram .
In one article published on 28th November 1936 Pegler praised the lynching of Thomas Harold Thurmond and John M. Holmes that had taken place in San Jose in 1933. A mob had broken into the local jail and lynched two men who had been charged with having kidnapped and murdered Brooke Hart, the son of Alexander Hart, the owner of the Leopold Hart and Son Department Store. Pegler wrote that: "The fine theory of all expressions of horror and indignation is that punishment is not supposed to be vengeance but a protective business, whereas the rabble, which constitutes by far the greatest element of the population, want to make the murderer suffer as the victim or his family did. And, though they would be willing to let the Law do it for them if the Law could be relied upon, they know too well what lawyers will do when they get a chance to invoke a lot of legal technicalities which were written and passed by lawyers to provide lawyers with opportunities to make money."
Heywood Broun took the opposite point of view and condemned James Rolph, the governor of California, who had argued that lynching was "a fine lesson for the whole nation" and promised to pardon any man convicted of the lynching. Broun wrote: "If it were possible to carry on a case history of every person in the mob who beat and kicked and hanged and burned two human beings I will make the prophecy that out of this heritage will come crimes and cruelties which are unnumbered... To your knees, Governor, and pray that you and your commonwealth may be washed clean of this bath of bestiality into which a whole community has plunged."
Roy Wilson Howard died on 20th November, 1964.
Roy Howard, the pompadoured, mustachioed young chairman of the Scripps-Howard board, was more persistent than anyone else. Broun would be of enormous assistance in Howard's ambition to make good in his venture into New York journalism... Broun's basic demand was freedom of expression. While about it, he was hopeful of reaching his goal of thirty thousand a year...
To Broun few doors or tables were closed. Consequently the editor-publisher was pleased to join his columnist on nocturnal tours... The tiny (five feet five) man in a pink or green shirt, a gaudy bow tie, and a checked suit was just another Odd McIntyre to the smart crowd. His habit of dodging hat-check girls and his ostentatious calculating of the minimum tip was further depressing.
Any working newspaperman is naturally pleased when the editor finds it necessary to sit down and write a piece.
My gratification was double because in this case it gave me one more day of vacation. But, naturally, I am grieved to find Roy W. Howard enmeshed in error. He objects to my running for Congress on the Socialist ticket in the Seventeenth District, New York, for four reasons:
1. No Scripps-Howard feature writer has ever gone to Congress.
2. The odds seem to be overwhelmingly against my election.
3. The profession of journalism is more important than that of politics.
4. Independence of thought precludes party membership.
One and two seem to square off pretty well from Mr. Howard's point of view, although I want to say a little more about the second later. In saying that journalism is more important than politics and that Broun could be "more constructive in a column than in Congress" Mr. Howard raises an issue which does not exist. The two things are not mutually exclusive. During the campaign this column will appear as usual. I don't expect to see it any better or any worse. When and if elected I should most certainly have daily opinions and the desire to see them in newsprint. There is no reason why a man or a woman could not be both columnist and Congressman. If Mr. Howard disagrees I suggest that he secure an option on the newspaper services of Mrs. Ruth Pratt to be exercised immediately after election day.
The real sticking point is party affiliation. I am quite sure that the fact of its being Socialist does not enter into the problem. Surely it would be far more embarrassing for a liberal newspaper to have its columnist affiliated with the Tammany machine or the Republican organization of Sam Koenig than to be serving under the leadership of Norman Thomas.
Indeed, the Telegram supported Thomas for mayor, and I trust that it will also indorse him this year in his fight for Congress. But I don't know. Right here comes the weakness of an individual or an organization construing independence as meaning a permanent place on the sidelines. In order to have any coherence of policy it is necessary to make something more than annual alliances. At times the Scripps-Howard independence becomes little more than erratic whimsy. A liberal, for instance, may be pardoned if he rubs his eyes and asks querulously, "What is this liberal independence," when he observes the Telegram supporting in one national election a La Follette and the next time around a Hoover. As the rowing experts say, the boat doesn't seem to run well between strokes.
I think it not in the least inconsistent for Mr. Howard to stop well short of complete acceptance of the Socialist program and, nevertheless, support Thomas for mayor, as was the case last year. It would be silly for a passenger to say, "I can't get on that Van Cortlandt Park express, because I want to go only as far as 72nd Street." Surely Thomas and the rest of us are going in the direction toward which the Scripps-Howard papers are heading. Why shouldn't they get on board? We'll let them off when they think they've reached their destination.
Independent liberals always get beaten in American elections because they reserve their commitments until a month or so before election. Sam Koenig and John F. Curry work three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Organization can't be beaten without organization. The Socialist Party offers the only existing machinery by which the Republican-Democratic alliance can be overthrown. It is hopeless to try to cleanse these parties from within. That's been tried. Mrs. Pratt herself made a gallant effort to free the local Republican organization of Koenigism...
But I am tired of hearing all this talk about how the honest average citizen should get into politics and not leave it to the machine professionals. I am tired of hearing this, because I am average and honest and yet, when I do get in, my own boss tells me that this is no business for me. It's everybody's business and nobody's business.
But I am even more tired of standing with well-meaning liberals weaving a daisy chain of good intentions. I want to break that chain and enlist for duration. Here goes!