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Eccentric Genius Advocates Lava Beds National Monument

History writer Lee Juillerat describes the man behind the creation of Northern California’s Lava Beds National Monument as an eccentric genius and near hermit.

Born in Iowa in 1875, the man, J. D. Howard, spent years working at flour mills across the country before settling in Klamath Falls, Ore., in 1916. 

Juillerat says neighbors claimed Howard rarely bathed, empty cans littered his front porch, and wood shavings covered his living room floor.  He didn’t drive and walked up to 60 miles a day.  He avoided having his picture taken, but took pictures of others, especially visitors to the lava beds. 

He quit his job in 1927 and began building the lava beds roads and surveying its caves.

People often addressed him as Dr. Howard for his deep knowledge of engineering, biology and geology, but his formal education was uncertain.

As Juillerat put it, “Howard is best known as the person whose explorations, writings, photographs and badgering spurred President Calvin Coolidge to proclaim the Lava Beds a national monument.”

Although he wanted to be appointed the Lava Beds superintendent, it never happened, but when he died in 1961, Howard was widely known as “The Father of the Lava Beds National Monument.” 
 

Source:  Juillerat, Lee. J.D. Howard - The Man Behind The Monument. Vol. 14. Klamath Falls, Ore.: The Journal of the Shaw Historical Library, 2000. 48-59. Print.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.