SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard passed away on March 23, 2016 at the age of 71. Knowing how deeply Ken’s loss will be felt, SAG-AFTRA has invited members and Ken’s fans and friends to contribute to this memorial wall in his honor.
In lieu of flowers, remembrance contributions may be made to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and the Onyx and Breezy Foundation for the Welfare of Animals.
I first met Ken when I was an apprentice at Williamstown. I never could've known then, that I would stand by his side—helping to merge the unions and ultimately becoming his Executive Vice President. He was my President, my mentor and my friend. He will be missed but not forgotten.
In the rush of activity after his death, I’ve just begun to read through all the beautiful and touching communication from around the country. How do I begin to express my sadness and gratitude to my president, my mentor and my friend? Ken was a beacon of light that guided us in challenging times and which will continue to shine into the future.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
-Gabrielle Carteris, Acting President and Executive Vice President, SAG-AFTRA
Ken was a remarkable leader and his powerful vision for this union was a source of inspiration for all of us. He was an exceptional person and we are deeply saddened by his passing. He had a brilliant career and he never forgot what it was like to be a working performer. The merger of SAG and AFTRA was something of a “North Star” for him and, once he fixed upon it, he never wavered from that goal. My heart goes out to his loving wife, Linda, and to their family. He will be deeply missed.
-David White, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director
There’s a story about how a young actor met Ken on the Fox lot in 1983 and told him what a fan he was of The White Shadow. Ken asked that actor what he did, and the young man said, “Well, someday I hope to be lucky enough to work with you.” Then he told Ken he had an audition all the way across town at Paramount but he wasn’t going to make it because all he had was a bike. So Ken put his bike in the trunk of his car and dropped him off at Paramount. Then Ken just waved goodbye and said good luck, “I hope we do get that chance to work together.” I didn’t get that audition, but I did get the chance to work with him years later. It was an honor. Today his obituary read that he was six foot six, but he was so much taller than that.
Ken Howard was a calming, trusting presence, an actor who understood that our collective art is also a collective business. He promoted a common sense attitude that also looked for the as yet unimagined ideas that would strengthen not just the guild but also our gravitas as actors. I recall an anecdote about him from long ago when a shoot was not going well and a scene had become bogged down with conflicting ideas, troubled technicalities, and inertia — the life was being choked out of the process. Ken said to everyone, 'Look, folks, we gotta shoot this, so come on.' I liked this about Ken, that he understood a truth about the work that goes into a production, that not only does the work require us actors but we can lead the efforts to get it all done. Along with his physical stature, he was a giant of a man.
I had known Ken most of my career, as I always remember White Shadow as a big hit on CBS. Later on, when he became president of SAG, I would see him regularly at the SAG Awards. Ken was a great union leader and he made me proud to serve as SAG Ambassador for a couple of years. When Ken showed up on the 30 Rock set to play Hank Hooper, the owner of Kabletown, he reminded us all of just how funny he was. He nailed it. So often, union leaders lose a good part of their career as performers. Ken showed up, the head of SAG-AFTRA, and killed us with his take on the character and his timing. He was smart, talented and a doll to work with.
I grew up watching Ken Howard on The White Shadow. Honored to get to know him over the years. My prayers go out to his loved ones. RIP.
Ken was a really decent and talented man. We had wonderful conversations. At any time of the day you could approach him and have a welcome visit and talk about any subject that came up. It was a pleasure to be around him. I enjoyed very much working with him on The Judge.
I'm deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my friend, Ken Howard. He was a fine actor, but an even finer human being. I can say with full confidence that he had SAG-AFTRA in his heart. It was his goal to make it the best union possible. He will be missed. Rest well, my friend.
Ken Howard was a bit of a hero to me since high school back east, because a kid I knew got a role on The White Shadow, acted with Ken, said what a good guy he was and we all watched the show. He was a terrific actor and person. I'm grateful we got to work with him for a day on Joy, and he was a very good SAG-AFTRA president. I'm sad for him to be gone so soon.
-David O. Russell
Rest in peace, Ken. You saved our union.
RIP, Ken Howard. You left a lasting and influential mark on the film and television industry and SAG-AFTRA. #BePeace