American Shipper founder brought shippers and container carriers together

David A. Howard, who founded American Shipper and introduced the shippers’ world to the emerging container carrier industry during the early 1970s, died on Dec. 15 at his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He was 99.

With the introduction of containerization and the expansion of competition for U.S. manufacturers, especially from Germany and Japan, during the early 1970s, both carriers and shippers encouraged Howard to start a national publication to help them understand the growing complexity of serving international markets with containers.

In May 1974, Howard and his son, Hayes H. Howard, expanded the then 15-year-old Florida Journal of Commerce nationally and renamed it American Shipper.

American Shipper quickly established a strong international following for its coverage of regulatory issues in North America and Europe, as well as the changing relationship between global shippers and their service providers.

Hayes Howard said his father always held himself and his writers to the highest journalistic standards. “He was a tough editor and always credited his strong team of writers over the years for the success of the publication,” he said.

Joseph Bonney, a former managing editor of American Shipper, said Howard “was among the first to recognize that changes in regulation and technology were changing the way shippers operated, and that transportation was only one link in a company’s supply chain. He was covering logistics in detail when other publications — and even many in the industry — were still learning how to spell it.”

Howard’s editorial direction of American Shipper turned the publication into a must-read for several generations of shipper logistics and ocean carrier executives.

“I used to spend a lot of time at the Fort Schuyler library (New York State Maritime College) from 1960 to 1964. That’s when I started reading the works of Mr. Howard,” said Capt. James McNamara, former president of the National Cargo Bureau who currently serves as historian of the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler, New York. “I always enjoyed and relied upon American Shipper and its predecessor publications to keep me informed of maritime news and perspectives.”

Howard was born Feb. 14, 1920, in Nashville, North Carolina, and raised in the nearby town of Black Creek, where both of his parents were educators. He graduated second in his high school class of 1936 at Chapel Hill.

“He started studying math at the University of North Carolina and switched to journalism after he received a B in one of his math courses. He always said that since math was a precise discipline, getting a B told him he needed to change majors,” Hayes Howard said.

After graduating from the university in 1940, Howard enlisted in the Coast Guard and, during World War II, served in the North Atlantic, North Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific.

Howard started his journalism career with United Press International in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1945. He moved to Jacksonville, Florida, a year later when he married Kitty Jo Hickman on Dec. 23, 1946. He worked as a reporter for the Florida Times Union newspaper, and his beat included port and maritime activities.

In 1951, he was encouraged to start a port magazine in Jacksonville. He formed Howard Publications Inc., and the first issue of the Jacksonville Seafarer was published in January 1952. He then launched the statewide maritime and trade publication Florida Journal of Commerce in 1959.

“Launching a magazine on a shoestring took courage, and it never would have succeeded without his vision, persistence and hard work,” Bonney said. “Dave was a savvy businessman but a newsman at heart. He demanded honest reporting, and his editor’s columns didn’t shy from controversy. He sweated over those commentaries, writing and rewriting them on his Royal manual typewriter.”

Barbara Spector Yeninas, who knew Howard for 50 years, both during her time as a maritime editor at the Newark Evening News and after starting an industry public relations firm, BSY Associates Inc. in 1974, said he “grew a publication and presence that was very respected in our industry. There was nobody that can follow him in that category.”

She added, “He was thoroughly tenacious and professional as a journalist and a businessman. He did it his way.”

Howard received numerous industry awards over the years, including the U.S. Propeller Club Man of the Year, recognition with a Lifetime Achievement honor by the Containerization & Intermodal Institute, and in 2000 was inducted into the Maritime Hall of Fame. All these awards were in honor of his editorial contributions to the development of the maritime industry.

Howard became editor emeritus of American Shipper in 2000 at the age of 80 but kept his hand in the publication until it was sold to FreightWaves Inc. on July 1. “He quipped that when the publication was sold, he was fired,” Hayes Howard said.

Howard’s wife, Kitty Jo, died in May 2000. He is survived by his second wife, Nancy Cavanaugh Tucker, whom he married in 2002. He is also survived by sisters Margaret Nicholson, age 103, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Francis Norton, 101, of Moscow, Idaho. He was preceded in death earlier this year by his brother Fred Howard, 104, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

In addition, he is survived by his children Hayes Howard and David A. Howard Jr., both of Jacksonville; Kathy H. Houser, Auburndale, Florida; Linn W. Howard, Cherry Valley, Illinois; and 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.