Verna Elisha Howard
(Interview with V. E. Howard - 1970)
V.E. Howard was born at Farmersville, Louisiana on September 29, 1911. He passed away on September 28, 2000 at Texarkana, Texas, just one day short of his 89th birthday. His parents were Elisha John (“Hardy”) and Corrine (Smith) Howard.
V.E. Howard and Ruth Moryne Jackson were married on December 20, 1931 in Corsicana, Texas. They had three children, Jasper Smith, Vernon Edgar and Marilyn Kay. Ruth was born on September 10, 1909 and passed away on January 31, 2000. On their tombstone in the family plot at Rocky Branch, Louisiana is engraved under Ruth’s name, “A worthy woman” and under V.E.’s name “Are you listening?”
Verna Howard was the oldest of six children. He had three brothers and two sisters. When he was 15 he left the family farm to live with an uncle in Shreveport, Louisiana to finish high school. After his graduation in 1929, the shoe store chain that had given him part-time employment while he was in school offered him a job as assistant manager for their store in Corsicana, Texas.
Through the influence of brother J. L. Hines, Verna began attending the church of Christ. Six months after he was baptized into Christ in October of 1930, brother Howard decided that he wanted to preach the Gospel. After his first sermon at Powen, Texas on May 24, 1931 his assistant manager at the shoe store, whom he had invited to go along, was baptized.
At the age of 19 he resigned as manager of the shoe store and held a gospel meeting near where he was raised. During the week, 12 were baptized into Christ. He held another meeting and 8 were baptized.
In the fall of 1931 he went to Abilene Christian College to study Bible. On December 20th he and Ruth Jackson were married. He had met Ruth at Corsicana, where her family were founding members of the congregation. The next year brother Howard studied at Harding College in Arkansas.
When he left Harding he was invited to preach full-time for the church in Hot Springs, Arkansas where he served from 1934 to 1938. He then preached for the church in Conway, Arkansas where he also attended Arkansas State Teachers’ College.
In September of 1939 he was invited to preach for the Johnson Street congregation in Greenville, Texas. By then he and Ruth had three children, Jasper, Ed and Kay. After serving that congregation for four years, brother Howard decided to devote full-time to radio evangelism and conducting gospel meetings. He also started a business (a Jewelry store) to help support his family. In 1964 he and Ruth moved to Texarkana, Texas.
During his lifetime brother Howard preached in gospel meetings throughout the United States and baptized more than 8000 people. He authored many books and tracts, wrote several hymns*, and published a songbook entitled “Church Gospel Songs and Hymns.”
His business activites included being owner of Howard’s Jewelers, and tenures as president of Central Printers and Publishing Company, and of Howard Foundations, Inc. He also served on the Board of Freed-Hardeman College.
Brother Howard was best known for his pioneer religious broadcasting. He began preaching on the radio at Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1934. He became known for his question to emphasize a Scripture or an important point, “Are you listening?” His voice was instantly recognized by thousands who were listening as he forcefully and clearly preached the gospel of Christ.
In 1966 he began the annual ‘Gospel Hour Sing Song Till Midnight’ which continued under his direction for some 20 years. First it was hosted by the Walnut Street congregation in Texarkana, Texas, but later it was held at various locations.
In 1995, after sixty-one years of broadcasting, he discontinued his radio work at the advice of his doctors and transfered the International Gospel Hour to the elders of the West Fayetteville congregation in Fayetteville, Tennessee to be continued by Winford Claiborne. It is the longest continuous broadcast in radio history.
* Including: “He Died, Arose, and Lives”, “Sing of His Love”, “By Faith I Can See”, “By His Wonderful Grace” and “The Prince of Glory”.