History of the Restoration Movement

Maurice Melvin Howell


The Life Of Maurice Howell

Maurice Melvin Howell was born August 14, 1913, in Pocahontas, near Essary Springs, Hardeman County, Tennessee. He was the eldest of three children born to Franklin Ezra Howell (1886-1976) and Vada Essary (1892-1977). He was married to the former Virginia Ruth Howell, the daughter of Luther Alonzo Howell (1881-1950) and Lillie Ella Stewart (1880-1960). Maurice and Virginia had two children.

In addressing the life of Maurice Howell, it is essential to recognize the role his family played in the early history of a town, a church, and a Christian college. Equally significant are the well-known names of church leaders that became synonymous with this area in the Christian religion, names like T. B. Larimore, A. G. Freed, and C. P. Roland.

In the summer of 1876, the renowned preacher, T. B. Larimore, went to Pocahontas, Tennessee, where only two Christians ladies lived. “He held a meeting of seven days there, delivered fifteen sermons, and baptized thirty-two people. M. H. Northcross, now of Bunker Hill, Tennessee, and an able preacher, was baptized at that meeting.” (F.D. Srygley, Larimore And His Boys, p.185.) Out of this meeting was the beginning of the church there. Within three miles is the town of Essary Springs.

Maurice’s mother’s people were the Essary family, from whom the town of Essary Springs was named. To visit the small village in Hardeman County today may not impress much, but before the turn of the 20th century, it was quite the bustling little town. They had stores, three hotels, churches, and even a college.

The Southern Tennessee Normal School was organized by locals in 1889 in Essary Springs. A. G. Freed was brought in from Indiana to run it. The school continued until 1895, when it moved to Henderson, Chester County. By the time Maurice was born, the school had moved, but the influence there would be a prime mover in his life to excel and develop.

C. P. Roland, long-time minister, and educator connected to Freed-Hardeman College, recalled concerning the town in a 1977 interview. He said, “Well, it was named for a family who was still living there when I was a child. That is Willie, Will Essary; he had a son who was Will Essary. That’s two Essarys who had that name there. And they were pretty big farmers. They had a rather big farm up and down the creek that runs into Hatchie River there. The Essary farm, and their home, if you leave the Spring there, and go up on the South side of that Valley that runs back up there, then the Essary home was right back up there across the ravine, or valley there, from the college building, was the main Essary home at that time. Will Essary was the name of the elder Essary, and he had the son Jack Essary and married a Kimbrel, by the way, and daughter named Viola Essary, a great girl and special chum friend of ours, who married the Anderson boy, Clarence Anderson, and two of their daughters eventually stayed with our family awhile: Mildred Anderson and Leola Anderson named for one of her uncles there. ‘Cause one of those Anderson boys was named Lee Anderson. There was Clarence Anderson, the oldest one, and Ira Anderson coming on down to Lee Anderson in the Anderson family. And, Clarence married Viola Essary, the oldest of the two main Essary girls at that time. Nadine Essary was the one who married F. E. Howell, finally, and her grandchildren have been coming to Freed-Hardeman. Let’s see, the grandmother of the preacher Howell.—Interviewer: Maurice?—C. P. Roland: Maurice Howell. From that line right there. F. E. Howell and Ezra was his name. That’s the Essary family. Now, that family was one of the earliest ones for whom the Springs was named Essary Springs. Cause he owned the land around the Hatchie River and the creek that runs into it just a little piece from the spring there. He owned the spring, actually, but he never did try to control it or capitalize on it or anything of that kind. He wanted anyone who came there, and a great many people did, from all over, in that early day and time.” (“Memories of Freed-Hardeman College by Clifford Paul Roland” Interviewer: Virginia Oliver, May 17, 1977)

Maurice was baptized by J. D. Tant in 1923. He attended Burritt College, Spencer, Tennessee. Later, he attended Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson. Tennessee. Then, finally, he attended some at Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas.

He began preaching in Manila, Arkansas, in 1931, probably while a student at Harding. However, his first local work was in Bolivar, Tennessee, where he served as minister from 1939 to 1942. Then, he moved to Corinth, Mississippi, where he served the church at Foote Street from 1942 to 1947. From there, he moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he served the church at Central from 1949 to 1957. While in Corinth and later in Birmingham, he conducted regular religious radio broadcasts. In June 1957, the Howells moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Maurice began preaching for the Brainerd church of Christ. Then, in 1963, the Howells moved to Port Arthur, Texas, to work with the Procter Street church of Christ. In November 1967, they moved to Moulton, Alabama, where they spent the remainder of their days.

Brother Howell was quite a successful evangelist. He received regular calls for preaching meetings. He was very successful in tent meetings. His reputation as an excellent Biblical student and capable relator of the Word thrust him into the limelight as an educator as well. He was a regular speaker in the early years of what is now the Freed-Hardeman College Lectures. He also spoke on the lectureships at Alabama Christian College and David Lipscomb College in Nashville.

Virginia died on February 3, 1998. She was 84 years of age. Maurice died the following year on May 15, 1999. Their bodies rest in the Moulton Memory Gardens, Moulton, Alabama.

-Scott Harp, 12.27.2023
Sources: Preachers of Today, Volume 1, Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com

The Birmingham News, Birmingham, Alabama
Saturday, April 2, 1949, p.6

The Lamar Democrat
Wednesday, August 8, 1951, p.1

The Selma Times Journal, Selma, Alabama
Sunday, November 11, 1956, p.19
Note other pages on this site: Clyde Fulmer.

Alabama Journal, Montgomery, Alabama
Saturday, March 21, 1959, p.2

The Birmingham News, Birmingham, Alabama
Tuesday, April 25, 1961, p.7

Birmingham Post Herald, Birmingham, Alabama
Saturday, November 4, 1967, p.3

Gospel Advocate, November 25,1954, p.938

Gospel Advocate, May 23, 1957, p.333

Directions To Grave

The Howells are buried in the Moulton Memory Gardens in Moulton, Alabama. From Birmingham, head north on I-65 to Cullman. Take Exit 310, Hwy. 157 and turn left toward Moulton. Go 32.4 miles and, just after Hwy. 24, turn left onto Main St. Go .1 miles and cemetery is on the right. Take the first entrance and head down the tree line. Go to the end and when road turns to the left. Stop and the grave will be close to the drive on your right.

GPS Location
34°29'45.8"N 87°17'10.2"W
or D.d. 34.496053,-87.286162

Moulton Memory Gardens

C. Wayne Kilpatrick at the grave of Maurice & Virginia Howell

Maurice M. 1913-1999
Virginia 1920-1998

Photos Taken 2.5.2015
Webpage Produced: 12.27.2023
Courtesy Of Scott Harp

Special Recognition: Thanks to C. Wayne Kilpatrick who accompanied me in the region of north central Alabama early in February, 2015. If it had not been for Wayne this site would never have been produced. He is a friend and scholar.


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