Californians and the Military
Brigadier General Seth Edwin Preston Howard
Adjutant General of the State of California
By Mark J. Denger
California Center for Military History
Governor Frank Merriam and Brigadier General Seth Howard at Camp Merriam (now Camp San Luis Obispo)
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, July 1926.

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 Church.

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 California.
Search our Site!
Search the Web Search California Military History Online
Questions and comments concerning this site should be directed to the Webmaster
Updated 8 February 2016