Who was Ken Howard?
Ken was born Kenneth Joseph Howard Jr. in El Centro, California USA, on 28 March 1944, and was best known for being an actor, but was also a comedian and a politician. He had a younger brother called Don Howard who also became an actor and a director and who died in 1999 due to liver disease. His father was a stockbroker and his mother Martha was a housewife. Ken passed away in 2016.
Early life and education
Ken spent most of his time as a kid on Long Island in Manhasset, New York, and was educated at Manhasset High School, where he got his famous nickname “The White Shadow”, actually for playing in the school’s basketball team and being the only white starter – he was 17 back then and almost 6 foot 6 inches (2m) tall. Ken was very good at basketball and received a number of offers of basketball scholarships, but chose to focus on his studies rather than on sport. He graduated from Amherst College where he was also playing basketball, and was a captain of the team.
Ken had three wives, and was outlived by his last wife, Linda Fetters, with whom he had the longest marriage of 24 years. His first marriage was with Louise Sorel from 1973-75, while his second marriage with Margo Coleman which lasted for 14 years until 1991. Ken left three stepchildren behind him after his death.
Ken died just five days before his 72nd birthday in Los Angeles, California USA – it was confirmed that he suffered from prostate cancer in its final stages, but died of pneumonia which was more complicated because of his already poor medical condition. At the time of his death, based on authoritative sources, Ken’s net worth was estimated to be over $2 million.
Just like a lot of other famous actors, Ken started his career in theater – he got his first role on Broadway in “Promises”, and his next role was in “1776”, which turned to be his biggest success after his role in “The White Shadow” television show. He won his first award in 1970, a Tony Award for the Best Supporting Actor in “Child’s Play”. Ken had the main role in the TV series “Adam’s Rib” in 1973 and “The Manhunter” in 1974, before starting his third TV appearance in “The White Shadow” in 1978, in the role of a high school basketball coach called Ken Reeves. It seems that Ken was born to act, because he was doing so well and camera loved him. He starred in his first movie “Tell Me That You Love me” in 1970, and his movie career progressed steadily after that, in both comedy and drama such as “Independence”, “1776”, “Ulterior Motives” and many more. Something which younger people are unlikely to know is that he also starred in “Oscar” alongside Sylvester Stallone in 1991, and then again in “Rambo” in 2007. He also acted alongside the likes of Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock.
Ken won two Daytime Emmy Awards – one in 1981 for his performance in “The Body Human: Facts for Boys”, and the second in 2009 for “Grey Gardens”. He starred in many movies and TV shows throughout the years and kept acting until the final days of his life. He even appeared in one of the Clint Eastwood’s movies called “J. Edgar”, and starred in movies such as “The Numbers Game”, “Better Living Through Chemistry”, “The Judge” and “A.C.O.D”. His last movie was the biographical comedy-drama “Joy” in 2015.
Ken’s health issues
It was in the early ‘90s when Ken’s routine medical check showed some suspicious physical symptoms, but his doctor stated that everything was fine. Ken said that he regrets not seeking a second opinion because he wasn’t really fine – he had a blockage in his urinary tract and it wasn’t good, as it resulted in symptoms of extreme fatigue, and by the time Ken checked his condition with another doctor, his kidneys were functioning at 30 percent. He underwent a procedure and had his urinary tract unblocked, but his kidneys were seriously damaged. Five years after that they began to fail, and Ken needed a transplant.
His wife Linda offered him a kidney, however, she was not a match for Ken. It was his close friend Jeannie Epper – the “Wonder Woman” – who came to the rescue and gifted him her own kidney in 2000, when the kidney transplantation was completed. Seven months after the surgery, he was ready to get back into acting. Jeannie Epper also continued acting, afterwards appearing in the movie “Too Fast, Too Furious”. When asked in an interview about how he felt after receiving a kidney from his close friend Epper, he said ‘It’s very humbling when someone gives you a part of themselves to keep you alive. Thankful doesn’t seem to quite make it.’
Ken was a part-time professor at Harvard University where he held drama courses, teaching Acting and Oral Argument. He was also a popular reader for audiobooks, and even wrote his own book in 2003 – “Act Natural: How to Speak to Any Audience”.
He was the National President of “The Screen Actors Guild” from 24 September 2009. Ken used to sing in the a capella group “The Zumbyes”, at Amherst College. Ken was loved and respected by both the audience and his colleagues. After his death, George Clooney remembered how Ken gave him a ride once when he didn’t own a car.