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Joseph Lawson E. Howze (born August 30, 1923) is an African American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Biloxi from 1977 to 2001.

Early life

Lawson E. Howze was born in Daphnemarker, Alabamamarker. He is the oldest of four children born to Albert Otis Howze Sr. and Helen Lawson Howze. His mother died when he was five. He has six siblings in total. He grew up with neighbors who were Catholic and attributes his Catholicism to that influence. He attended kindergarten at Most Pure Heart of Mary School in Mobilemarker. He was later transferred to the segregated public school of Mobile, graduating from Mobile County Secondary School in 1944. Howze originally aspired to become a doctor and studied chemistry, biology, and physics. He graduated from Alabama State Branch Junior Collegemarker in 1946. In 1948, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Alabama State Universitymarker. He converted to Catholicism, being fully accepted at age twenty four, taking the name Joseph. He tought science in the public school system and was later hired to teach at St. Monica School in Tulsamarker, Oklahomamarker, in 1952.

Catholic Priesthood

After expressing an interest in the Priesthood, Howze was accepted to study for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure University in New Yorkmarker (receiving his Doctor of Divinity in 1959), and was ordained for the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolinamarker, on May 7, 1959. He served as a pastor in Ashevillemarker.

On November 8, 1972, Howze was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Natchez-Jackson, Mississippimarker, and Titular Bishop of Maxita by Pope Paul VI. He was consecrated to the episcopate on January 28, 1973 from Archbishop Luigi Raimondi, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, with Bishops Harold Robert Perry, S.V.D., and Joseph Bernard Brunini serving as co-consecrators. When the Diocese of Biloxi was created in 1977, Howze as appointed as its first bishop. He was the first black bishop in the 20th century to head a diocese in the United States. He retired June 6, 2001.


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