Brigadier General Seth Edwin Preston
Adjutant General of the State of California
By Mark J. Denger
California Center for Military
Governor Frank Merriam
and Brigadier General Seth Howard at Camp Merriam (now Camp San
Although a native of New York, Brigadier
General Seth Edwin Preston Howard had the spirit of California
and served his adopted State with a loyalty which shall make
his memory revered.
General Howard came from a long line of army officers, his great-great-great
grandfather, Ebenezer Howard served as a private, Seth Pratt's
Company, Massachusetts Militia during the Revolutionary War.
The son of Preston and Mary (Plunkett) Howard, he was born on
August 17, 1884 at Bouckville, New York, and was named after
his father, grandfather and great-grandfathers.
General Seth Edwin Preston Howard served with distinction for
many years as an officer in the U.S. Army and the California
National Guard. He first attended R.O.T.C. at the Presidio of
San Francisco, California, and was commissioned 1st Lieutenant,
Infantry, on December 27, 1917, and assigned to the 13th Infantry,
Eighth Division, U.S. Army, Camp Fremont in Palo Alto, California,
and appointed Assistant Regimental Adjutant. He served on active
duty during World War I, promoted to Captain and made Acting
Adjutant, March 1, 1918, and appointed Regimental Adjutant, 13th
Infantry. Promoted to Major, Infantry, October 20, 1918 and assigned
as Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry, Camp
Mills, Hempstead, New York. Discharged at Hoboken, New Jersey,
April 2, 1919. Following demobilization, he entered the Reserve
Corps. In October 1921 he was commissioned Captain, 160th Infantry,
California National Guard, being known as "Los Angeles'
Own. The 160th Infantry was assigned to the 40th Division. Promoted
to the rank of Major, Sept. 1922, commanding the First Battalion,
which post he retained until being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel,
The promotion of Seth E. Howard to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel,
taking command of the 159th Infantry at the request of Brigadier
General Walter P. Story, was sanctioned by the War Department
following the promotion of General Story, then commanding the
79th Brigade. The advancement in rank followed the promotion
of Gen. Story from command of the regiment, as Colonel, to General
of the Brigade. The nomination of Howard was made by Adjutant
General Mittelstadt. In 1931, while still only a Lieutenant Colonel
and the executive officer of a battalion, he was appointed Adjutant
General of the State of California in command of the National
Guard by Governor James Rolph, Jr. The rank of Brigadier General
came with the appointment.
General Howard was actively engaged in campaigning for increased
Federal appropriations for California armories. In 1934, at the
age of 48 years of age, Brigadier General Seth E. P. Howard,
gained national prominence as the commander of the California
National Guard troops during the San Francisco strike when Governor
Merriam called out the guard to restore order in the bloody scenes
of riot on the San Francisco water front. He served as Adjutant
General up to the time of his death, June 26, 1935, when he suddenly
died of a heart attack. The general collapsed in his seat shortly
after boarding a train which left Los Angeles to Sacramento.
Nearly 1,000 persons honored the memory of Brigadier General
Seth E. Howard at his funeral. Troops of the Eightieth Brigade,
California National Guard, stationed in Los Angeles, were in
charge of the military rites at the cemetery. Active pallbearers
were senior non-commissioned officers of the 160th Infantry.
Officiating at the committal services was Chaplain Major Golder
Lawrence, U.S.A., retired, pastor of the University Methodist
He was married to Mabel Ellen Morris on January 1, 1911, at Norman,
Oklahoma, and had one son, Preston Seth Edwin Howard.
In civilian life, General Howard was president of the Seth Howard
Company, a furniture manufacturers' agent, and headed the wholesale
department of Barker Brothers. His company was located in the
Walter P. Story Building.
Among the organizations and societies he held membership in were
the Association of the Army of the United States, American Legion,
Scottish Rite Masons, Sons of the Revolution in the State of
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