08/25/06 — Started early: Rudolph Howell’s inspiring legacy

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Started early: Rudolph Howell’s inspiring legacy

Rudolph Howell of Smithfield died last week at the age of 87. He chose to refuse further painful dialysis treatments rather than prolong a lingering death.

During his 87 years he amassed not only a great personal wealth but a record of service to others — and to the earth— that will be an inspiring legacy.

His life projected the epitome of the work ethic.

At the age of 7, he was selling popcorn and peanuts at the theater his parents operated. By the time he was 15, he was running a soda shop next door to the theater.

While still a young man, he began acquiring land in Johnston County and subsequently a 1,500-acre spread in Vermont.

He not only purchased land, he improved it, creating orchards and improving drainage. Much of the labor, he performed himself, wading in swamps, planting fruit trees and whatever was necessary.

Meanwhile, he was expanding the family’s theater chain. In the end, he headed Multi-Cinema Theaters, a corporation with theaters throughout North and South Carolina and Virginia.

Mr. Howell donated a 2,800-acre forest — Howell Woods — to Johnston Community College for research and public recreational activities.

The community college today can offer thousands of dollars in scholarships because of his personal generosity and that of those he urged to join him in providing educational opportunities through that institution.

Rudolph Howell loved his people; he loved to work; and he loved the earth. Despite his lifetime of success, he did not try to flaunt his importance or his wealth. In his travels around Johnston County, he usually could be recognized by his old pickup truck.

His lifetime of work, building, growing and sharing is, indeed a great and inspiring legacy for our state.

Published in Editorials on August 25, 2006 11:27 AM