Actor Ken Howard was 6'5" when he was a junior at Manhasset High School (he would later peak at 6'6"), and it was this physical fact, coupled with his remarkable athletic prowess, that assured him a position in Manhasset's "starting five." Offered several athletic scholarships, Howard turned them all down in favor of a liberal arts education at Amherst College, where he developed a taste for theatre. After two years' graduate work at the Yale School of Drama, he dropped out to accept a small role in the Broadway musical Promises Promises. In 1969, Howard graduated to stage stardom as Thomas Jefferson in the popular musical 1776, a role he would repeat in the 1972 film version. He went on to win a Tony Award for his performance in Child's Play, and to spend his summers essaying his two favorite roles, Billy Bigelow in Carousel and Chance Wayne in Sweet Bird of Youth. His first film was the 1970 Otto Preminger production Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon. In 1973, Howard and his frequent co-star Blythe Danner were cast in the series-TV version of the Tracy-Hepburn picture Adam's Rib (both stars had previously turned down MacMillan and Wife). Neither this series nor Howard's subsequent Manhunter (1974) clicked with the public. He was far more successful as high school basketball coach Ken Hughes on The White Shadow, which ran from 1976 to 1981 (and which, coincidentally, was produced by Blythe Danner's husband Bruce Paltrow). Howard's later TV projects included the title character in the 1984 American Playhouse production of Mark Twain's "Pudd'nhead Wilson;" the recurring role of Garret Boydston on both Dynasty and The Colbys (1985-86); his hosting chores on the syndicated 1986 talent show Dream Girl USA; and another hosting stint on the NBC documentary weekly What Happened? (1992). In 2009, Howard was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild, a role he would continue after the union merged with another and became SAG-AFTRA. He continued to work as an actor, appearing on shows like Crossing Jordan, Cane, and 30 Rock, as well as movies like The Beacon. Howard died in 2016, at age 71.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Was the only white starter his senior year on the Manhasset High School basketball team.
- Sang in an a capella group called the Zumbyes at Amherst College.
- Once married to advice columnist Ann Landers' daughter, Margo.
- On Broadway, played a gym teacher at a Catholic boys' school in Child's Play; on TV, played a gym teacher-basketball coach on The White Shadow.
- Taught Acting and Oral Argument at Harvard in 1986.
- Has appeared on ESPN promos with Byron Stewart, who costarred as Coolidge on The White Shadow.
- Had a kidney transplant in 2000.
- Was elected president of the Screen Actor's Guild in 2009, and helped the union through its merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 2012.