Bobby Howell has spent all of his life helping people in one way or another. For Howell, his long career in public service has never been about him or his accomplishments but always about the people.
After spending his life serving people as a pharmacist, a legislator, and the mayor of Kilmichael, Howell is retiring.
Howell said he initially planned to go into medicine, and continued his education in pre-med at Arkansas A & M. A native of Kilmichael, he said he’d heard that it was easier to get into medical school in Mississippi if you went to a Mississippi school. So, he transferred to Delta State. It was at Delta State where he met his future wife, Charmayne Killebrew.
“I took the MCAT, the Medical Aptitude Test, and I failed it because I was trying to get into medical school as a junior to lower the costs,” he said.
Howell said instead of waiting another semester to try again, he applied for Pharmacy School at the University of Mississippi and was accepted.
“I guess you can say that’s where my political career began. I was voted president of my pharmacy class. I was elected by one vote,” he said laughing.
In 1968, Howell moved back to Kilmichael with his new wife, Charmayne, after working at a pharmacy in Greenwood. He said at the time, only the owner of Kilmichael Drugs worked in the store and he didn’t get a lot of time off. But, Howell said with him and Charmayne there, the pharmacist was able to take time off and relax. Eventually, Howell and Charmayne purchased Kilmichael Drug and operated it for 44 years, until they sold to Fred’s Pharmacy.
Howell said after being in Kilmichael, he saw there were things the town needed.
“I guess you could say it was a little egotistical because I was young, but I thought I can help with that,” he said.
So he ran for mayor.
His first term began in 1969, during the height of integration. Howell said when he took office, the town has a dilapidated water system, no fire department, and no police department.
“They had an elected marshal,” he said. “Because he was elected, all the changes I wanted to make had to be after the first term, to finish out the elected marshal’s term.”
Howell said during his second term, he implemented the Chief of Police system, and Joe Henson, the first black police chief in Kilmichael, was appointed.
“Because it was during integration, it was really progressive for us. Joe was beneficial for us, he helped us a lot especially with race relations,” Howell said.
Howell said a committee was also formed to start the Kilmichael Volunteer Fire Department.
Howell served as mayor for 22 and a half years.
He said after ….. Lancaster retired from the House of Representatives he decided to run for the seat and was elected.
He served in the House from 1992 until 2015, when he announced his intentions not to seek re-election.
In 2015, when then-Mayor Ryan Wood was elected Montgomery County Chancery Clerk, Howell was elected mayor once again.
He said when he left the legislature, it was his intentions to come to Kilmichael and retire. But, that didn’t last long.
“People, my friends and family were talking me into running for mayor again in the special election because of the vacancy. I said if I ran, I would serve of the time of the vacancy and run again and if elected, serve one last full term,” he said.
His last full term began in 2017 when he was re-elected.
In the past five years, Howell said that he and the board of aldermen, which he credits entirely, have paved roads, put a new roof on the Kilmichael library, built a new pavilion, and more.
“We’ve been blessed,” he said.
However, for Howell, in looking back at his professional life, he feels his biggest accomplishment was Kilmichael Drug Store where he and his wife Charmayne served the people of Kilmichael for many years. He said the store also included a florist, and they met a lot of people while serving the community -- people he’s still calls friends today.
So, what’s next for Howell?
“I’m going to garden,” he said. “We have a little farm, and I’m going to work the farm and garden until I can’t anymore.”
He said he’ll be around to answer questions and give encouragement, but he said whoever is elected as mayor of Kilmichael, he knows the town is in a good position.
He said only has one regret in his time as mayor.
“I wish we had more retail places,” he said.
He said Kilmichael has the group home and God’s House of Hope and the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, but he wishes that they were able to attract an industry to the area. He said the town has worked and have the things in place that an industry would need, however, he said he wished they were able to attract more retail to the area.