Tuesday, January 27, 2015

7 Questions with Tim Howard, Educator and Local History Advocate

Since 1976 (when he was an eighth grader), Tim Howard has been central to preserving the history of Murray County and developing programs to share regional traditions with the public. He has been a volunteer and a researcher for hundreds of programs involving local history, genealogy, and archaeology. He has helped establish museums and sites such as the Chief Vann House and he established a friends group (the first of such in the state) to provide private support to assist the Georgia Department of Natural Resources with preservation and programming. Twice selected as Murray County’s Teacher of the Year, he just recently retired after 32 years as an educator.


Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Tim Howard, First Lady Sandra Deal

1.     How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?

Frankly, I cannot remember when I was NOT hooked on history!  Even as a first grader learning to print on tablet paper, I can recall asking how to write my parents, brother, and grandparents' names and birthdates.--Yes, that's sort of weird, I know.  My parents my maternal grandmother, and several older aunts helped/encouraged me in learning about my family as well as history in general.

Then in fourth grade my class went on a trip to the Chief Vann House Historic Site and the teacher had us write about it when we got back to school--that was the first writing about history I ever did.  The following school year, a retired teacher came back to fill in for a teacher who moved to another position and she brought me the only two printed sources about Murray County's history available at that time to read.  I did and have been into local history ever since--more than forty years now.

I did some more local history in my 8th grade GA history class, more in a high school gifted class and at 16 joined the newly reactivated Whitfield-Murray Historical Society and have been there ever since!

2.  What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

Honestly, most of my life has revolved around history--both my vocation and my avocation have been all about history--teaching, local historical society, research, writing, etc.  Not a day goes by that I don't do something related to history of some sort.

3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?

I graduated from Berry College with a B.A. in history in 1982.  That fall I began teaching social studies and have done so ever since.  I have also taught a local history class called "Murray on My Mind" since 1986.  It has been a staff development class for area teachers, a summer camp for kids, as well as done for the general public.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

Most people don't realize how they use history every day--when you are buying that first used car, a house, land on which to build a house, if you are asking the right questions, you are simply learning the history of the car, the house, or the land.  History explains why/how/what we do and helps understand the present and, hopefully, better prepare for the future!

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

Murray County history would have to be my first love, and GA history in general.  Over the years I've developed a greater interest in the Colonial/Revolutionary Eras since that's where GA and Murray County began!

6.  In 2013, you were recognized as a recipient of a Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities for your role in revitalizing historical interest and preservation in Murray and Whitefield Counties (Georgia).  What makes your region uniquely historic ?

Our Whitfield-Murray area of course has a rich Native American, Civil War, Railroad and Industrial history.  Our part of GA was included in the original charter from King George III--and not all of the state can say that.  We just have so much and such a variety of "history" we are a bit unique.  For example, our historical society owns and preserves eight properties and has close ties to a ninth. They include a Cherokee mansion, a 19th century church, an early 20th century hotel, a train depot, a battle park, an old office building, and three houses built prior to the Civil War.

7. If someone is interested in his/her own local history, what advice do you have for him/her about getting started?

Just get started!  Find the local historic preservation organization, visit the library, go online--any or all of the above, but just get involved and the earlier in life the better.  One of my greatest blessings as far as history is concerned is that I did get involved at a young age and got to know, learn from, and enjoy countless older people who are now gone.

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