Vowing to build unity and build strength, Ken Howard was elected the 25th president of Screen Actors Guild on September 24, 2009 and re-elected to a second term on September 21, 2011. In 2012, Howard’s goal of merger with American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) was accomplished, creating SAG-AFTRA. Howard served as co-president with AFTRA’s national president, Roberta Reardon, until he was elected the first sole president of SAG-AFTRA on August 15, 2013. He was elected to a second two-year term on August 20, 2015, but died seven months later on March 23, 2016.
When first elected in 2009, Howard had been a working member of Screen Actors Guild for 40 years, and inherited the mantle of Robert Montgomery, James Cagney, Charlton Heston and Ronald Reagan in leading the nation’s most high-profile and storied actor’s union at a critical juncture for Screen Actors Guild members and the American labor movement.
An actor’s actor, Howard earned a formidable list of credits and several awards, including his second Emmy in 2009 for his role in HBO’s critically acclaimed Grey Gardens — just four days before winning the SAG presidential election.
He made his professional debut on Broadway in 1968 and performed in nearly 40 stage productions, seven of which were on Broadway, and more than 20 feature films. In television, he starred in seven series, six mini-series, and 16 movies, in addition to making countless guest appearances. He helped create The White Shadow, a groundbreaking television series in which he starred from 1978 through 1982, and would go on to have recurring roles on shows such as Dynasty and Crossing Jordan. The veteran character actor also portrayed several U.S. presidents throughout his career, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Warren G. Harding.
Howard spent three years in Cambridge, Mass., (1986-89) teaching at the American Repertory Theatre, Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He authored the book Act Natural, published by Random House in 2003.