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 James W. Howard

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James W. Howard

James W. Howard Sr., 76, of Lansdale, a retired Philadelphia police officer who earned 20 commendations for valor, died Saturday at home of complications from diabetes and bone cancer.

Mr. Howard joined the Philadelphia Police Department in 1955. The next year he was assigned to the Highway Patrol motorcycle unit. He performed at the yearly police-sponsored Thrill Show. His stunt-riding through a wall of flames prompted an invitation to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, said his son, James Jr. He never made it to the studio because of a train accident.

In 1965, Mr. Howard became a member of the newly formed Stakeout Unit, a precursor to the SWAT Team, and worked on bank details, organized crime details, and was an undercover member of the Granny Squad. Mr. Howard, who was over 6 feet tall and weighed 245 pounds, dressed as an elderly woman to act as a decoy to catch muggers.

He often faced dangerous situations and was a legend on the force. In 1963, Mr. Howard was assaulted outside a courtroom by a man and woman he was testifying against; in 1968, during a shoot-out with a man who barricaded 14 people in a bar, he was shot in the chest - a bullet-proof vest saved his life; in 1973, he helped quell a riot at Holmesburg Prison; and in 1978 and 1985, he was involved in the confrontations between police and the radical group MOVE. In the 1978 incident, James J. Ramp, a good friend, was killed.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Stairiker Howard and sons James Jr., Michael and Paul; a daughter, Christine; a sister; and seven grandchildren.


  • Created by: Ronald Leon
  • Added: 
  • Find A Grave Memorial 25857507
  • jrrmr910
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James W. Howard (17 Oct 1931–5 Apr 2008), Find A Grave Memorial no. 25857507, citing Saint John Neumann Cemetery, Chalfont, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Ronald Leon (contributor 46521038) .