Funeral services will be held at 11:00 AM, Monday, May 5, 2014 at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas, LA for Mr. Howard Austin, 92, who entered eternal rest on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at his residence in Opelousas. Interment will be in St. Landry Catholic Cemetery in Opelousas. Fr. Jaison Mangalath will officiate at the Mass of Christian Burial. During the last quarter century of his 92 years, Howard Austin gratefully acknowledged, "I've cheated death!" Born the first child of nine offspring from the union of Gilbert Austin & Elinor Meche, he witnessed the burials of two of his siblings (Fertis & Verdie Mae) before his 12th birthday. In adulthood, Howard outlived 2 more of his younger brothers ("LJ" & "Boy") by several decades and thrived. Throughout his vigorous longevity, as a proud American of African descent, Howard remained a fully active citizen engaged in numerous civic, political & social groups. He never lost vigilance and always sought to preserve & exercise hard won civil and political rights for his vulnerable, economically disadvantaged sisters & brothers of all skin shades & colors in the community. Additionally, Howard carefully, happily & unapologetically nourished all aspects of his soul as a Holy Ghost parishioner, lover of Zydeco music, good food & the companionship of lovely and vibrant women. Despite achy joints in his advanced age, he never missed the opportunity to dance to his beloved harmonies & rhythms until death fatally interrupted his mortal steps. Howard took his first breath as newborn babe just outside of Opelousas town limits. After traveling the globe in a 21 year military career that thrust him into combat in the South Pacific as a 19 year-old WWII draftee and allowed him to reside in Europe, Asia and several different regions of United States, Master Sergeant Austin could think of no place finer to retire than his own Louisianan hometown. After participating in the desegregation of the US Army, as a 40 y.o. financially independent bachelor in the 1960's, Howard immediately joined the NAACP. He gathered with other concerned, like-minded compatriots and strategically began to battle for Civil Rights to end the racial discrimination that unfairly stunted the human potential of Black Americans to prosper in society. The loss of his first campaign for public office spurred Howard to file a successful Federal Civil Lawsuit that sought to increase the chances of political office representation for candidates of color by allowing district specific voting rather than citywide elections. Capitalizing on this change, with the support of family, friends & a track record of fair-mindedness, Howard consecutively won 7 re-elections to the St. Landry Parish Police Jury. He faithfully & conscientiously served his community for 28 years. During this time period, two of his career highlights include the implementation of: a) the first Head Start programming for pre-schoolers & their families in Opelousas and b) opportunities for summer employment in public service for local youths through the Federal CETA Job Training Partnership Act. When this second career ended, Howard directed his efforts to continue to increase voter registration and campaign for his political candidates. Throughout his life, numerous folks are gratefully indebted to Howard for sharing his personal financial acumen & resources with them in their times of fiscal crisis. Howard is immediately survived by 5 younger siblings Curtis of New Orleans, James of Richmond, CA, Gilbert, Jr. of Opelousas, Clydia Giron of Opelousas, & Evelyn Frelow of Baltimore, MD & other cousins. Howard often insisted that all children of the community were his own; and alongside of these were dozens of his nephews & nieces and great grandchildren ranging in age from 66 years to several-weeks-old. His confident spirit, discerning mind & good humor lives on in all of those who were fortunate enough to know, respect & love him. Visiting hours will be observed from 7:00 AM until 10:30 AM Monday, May 5, 2014 at Williams Funeral Home in Opelousas. A rosary will be recited at 9:00 AM. Share words of comfort with the Austin family at www.williamsfuneralhomes.net. Funeral arrangements entrusted to Williams Funeral Home of Opelousas, 817 E. South St. 337-942-2037.
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Published in TheAdvocate.com from May 2 to May 5, 2014