Scott, Howard B. (1919-2012)

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 12/04/2017
  • Essay 20485
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Marysville native Howard B. Scott was an ardent pacifist, dairy farmer, teacher, professor, and child psychologist. As a University of Washington student in 1937, Scott was repulsed by mandatory military training and became a conscientious objector assigned to alternative service before U.S. entry into World War II. In February 1942 he married Ruane McCallister (1918-2002), who strongly shared his beliefs. The internment of West Coast Japanese Americans -- including many of his friends -- so concerned Scott that he left his alternative-service posting, knowing there would be consequences for his action. He served time in Tucson, Arizona, was paroled in Oregon, and then was drafted again. Again refusing to serve, he was arrested and sentenced to two years at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary. Following his release in 1946, the Scotts moved to Howard's hometown of Marysville in Snohomish County, where they raised a family and worked as dairy farmers. Scott returned to school, earning his teaching certificate and master's degree at what is now Western Washington University and a doctorate degree in education from UW. Throughout their lives, Howard and Ruane Scott worked to advance peace through speaking, writing, and community action.

Growing Up and Blending Families

Howard Beaman Scott was born in Marysville, about five miles north of Everett, on March 2, 1919, the second of three children born to Bertha Beaman Scott (1919-2002) and Howard Percival Scott (d. 1924). His father was working overseas for the YMCA at the time. His mother, a graduate of Bellingham Normal School, had been a teacher in the nearby small town of Machias before she married.

Life changed suddenly for the family in 1924 when Howard was five years old and his father was secretary of the A. D. Brewer YMCA in California. A family outing turned tragic when the senior Howard, an experienced swimmer, was caught in an undercurrent and drowned in the Conaway Canal near Woodland, California. Thinking he was only clowning with his calls for help, the family did not try to rescue him.

With an insurance settlement of $20,000 and left alone to raise her three children, Bertha Scott moved back to Marysville, where the family lived first with her sister and then in their own place across the street from the town's popular Carr's Hardware store, which had opened the previous year. When Howard was 13 and in the eighth grade, store proprietor Milford Carr (1886-1970) and Bertha Scott married. With the marriage there were four children in the family: Bertha's daughter Helen, her sons Howard and Bruce, and Milford's daughter Mildren.

In the 1920s, Marysville had about 1,300 residents and an economy strongly tied to logging, lumbering, and farming. Howard attended Lincoln School and had many friends, including students from the nearby Tulalip Reservation. The boys played in the woods at the edge of town and held secret club meetings in a dugout they made in the Carr family's back yard. A popular student, Howard was a student-body president. Graduating from Marysville High School in 1936, he intended to enroll at the University of Washington but waited a year and a half before entering for two reasons. First, times were hard during the 1930s Great Depression and he could work at Carr's Hardware to help the family. Second, he began to be seriously rushed by campus fraternities and did not like being pressured to join.


Scott began his first year at UW in 1937, rooming at the YMCA where he could earn room and board doing various jobs including janitor and waiter at the campus commons. One of his roommates at the Y was Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2012), who would take a courageous stand against the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Howard and Gordon shared their pacifist views and became lifelong friends. To each other, they were Gordy and Howie.

In 1938 Howard met Ruane McCallister at a retreat in Seabeck, on Hood Canal. She was a UW student who roomed in a girls' dormitory across from the Y. McCallister had been raised on Lake Union and had strong family roots in Seattle; she was related to pioneer Asa Mercer (1839-1917) on her father's side. Her mother's family were farmers in Eastern Washington. McCallister transferred to a Methodist school, Cornell College in Iowa, where she completed a degree in religious studies and teaching.

Peaceful Resistance

In his later years Howard Scott would say that he didn't know if his personal beliefs came from integrity or just plain stubbornness -- he was never quite sure. But early on he knew he could not participate in organized war. When Scott attended UW, military training was compulsory for male students and when this training required him to shoot at human-shaped targets, he refused. He sought to learn more about pacifism and the tactics of peaceful resistance from groups that included the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Student Christian Movement. Through the YMCA, he went to New York City in the summer of 1940 to volunteer in a Lower East Side Jewish neighborhood. Here he met pacifists from around the world and joined some of them that summer to lobby against the Burke Wadsworth Bill (Selective Service and Training Act) in Washington, D.C.

Returning to Seattle and his studies that fall, Scott registered as a conscientious objector and, with four other students, organized a group of COs on campus. As he would later remark, even female students at that time were worried about being drafted. Following her graduation, Ruane McCallister worked as a youth director for a Methodist church in Bremerton in Kitsap County. Scott was drafted and, as a CO, he accepted an assignment to do alternative service as a firefighter working out of a Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp in California.


The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. entry into war, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 in February 1942 changed everything for Hirabayashi, Scott, and many of their friends. Now Japanese Americans on the West Coast were being rounded up and taken to incarceration camps. "On weekend leaves from the CPS camp, Howard visited towns from which Japanese Americans were being removed. He helped them pack and store their belongings, prepare their houses and find people to take their pets. A strange time to be an American -- welcoming refugees on one side of the country, and creating them on the other" (Sentilles, 34).

Scott now felt he could not serve in the military, even in alternative service. After giving written notice, he left the camp, knowing the consequences of his actions would include prison time. Howard and Ruane had courted for two years and by February 1942 they had married and moved to a farm owned by Paul and Margaret Michener in Newberg, Oregon. At the same time, declaring his constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen, Gordon Hirabayashi refused to comply with the curfew and internment-camp orders imposed on Japanese Americans. He was arrested by the FBI and eventually sentenced to 90 days in jail. On January 11, 1943, Hirabayashi wrote to Howard Scott's mother from jail:

"Dear Mrs. Carr,
This isn't exactly the kind of new year we would like to see, but everything is not gloomy either. These are the days of hope and faith. If we can survive this storm, we shall emerge much humbler, wiser persons. During the vacation I have heard from Howard and Ruane. Arrangements were made for Howard to be with Ruane until the 31st of December. I was very glad to hear that and hope that further arrangements have been made for this month. Howard always has been, and is more than ever now, an inspiration to me. I have my hands full trying to be like him.
Enclosed please find a hand-made shell corsage. It is sent with best wishes from my mother. The shells are from the bottom of Tule Lake. Her address is: Mrs. S. H., 5216, Tule Lake W.R.A., Newell, California. Regards to Mr. Carr and family.
Gordon H." (Hirabayashi to Carr).

Prison Years

In 1944 the Scotts were expecting their first child when Howard was drafted again and arrested when he again declined to serve. He was allowed to see the birth of their daughter Karen and was then sentenced on October 11 to two years at McNeil Island Penitentiary. Scott was not the only CO at McNeil; the largest number were Jehovah's Witnesses. Scott was assigned to work at the prison dairy, with many chores to occupy his time.

Records show that he was received there on October 23 and that he served for a year and a half. During this time he and Ruane visited and corresponded. Like Howard, Ruane was active in pacifist work and community service. A good speaker and writer, she reflected a region in turmoil in her letters to family and friends. According to their daughter Kayleen Scott Pritchard, Howard and Ruane saved everything during their lifetimes, including letters to each other and many other writings. While Howard's letters often had a philosophical tone, Ruane's were more personal, describing events in her everyday life. In Howard's words, she was always "a steady rock" for him (Howard B. Scott interview).

Making Music

Walking on prison grounds one day, Howard spotted a fallen maple tree and decided he wanted to try making a violin. Although he was an excellent harmonica player, he did not play the violin, had only beginning skills in woodworking, and had no idea how to start. He persuaded prison guards to help him make carving tools he needed. Ruane became an important part of the project, researching violin making at her public library. She typed up instructions and carefully traced drawings to take to him. At times her communications were redacted because prison personnel were unsure whether they might be code. Ruane learned to carry them in the bottom of Karen's diaper bag, covered with a wet diaper. The violin project became a symbol of transformation for Howard and Ruane, a hopeful way of doing more than just passing time.

When he was released from McNeil Island in 1946, the violin was only half finished. He wrapped the pieces, took them home, packed them in a shoebox and placed them in a closet. Over decades, the violin story became an important part of their family lore.

Life after Prison

Howard Scott had intended a career in sociology, but world events had halted those plans. Released from prison, he was now both a former convict and a resister to a popular war. Work was not easy to find. The Scotts moved to Marysville, where they began to operate dairy farm. The family added three more children: Kenneth (1946-1977), Kayleen (b. 1948), and Kathryn (b. 1951). They and older sister Karen all helped on the farm. The important thing for the Scotts was that they lived and worked together. They struggled financially, as did many other small dairy farmers in the area, and Howard wanted to become a teacher. It was Snohomish County School Superintendent Dorothy Bennett who persuaded him to return to school. This time he entered Western Washington College of Education (later Western Washington University) in Bellingham, where he earned a teaching certificate and master's degree. His first teaching job -- arranged by Superintendent Bennett -- was in Machias, the same school where his mother had once taught.

The Scotts moved to Indianola in Kitsap County in 1955 and both taught for four years, Ruane teaching third graders and Howard sixth graders at David Wolfe Elementary, which all four of their children attended. In the 1960s Howard and Ruane taught in Tacoma and continued their peace activism. During the Vietnam War, Howard Scott counseled young men about alternative service and the draft. As a result he lost his appointment as Assistant Superintendent of Tacoma Schools. Howard and Ruane moved to Ellensburg with their last child at home, Kathryn, and from 1967 to 1983 Howard taught psychology and human growth and development at Central Washington University.

Honoring the Scotts

Ruane Scott died in 2002. Throughout their lifetimes, she and Howard had received the warm respect of family, neighbors, and friends and, over the years, their courageous stands were recognized in small ways. But the Scott children hoped for, and eventually saw, greater recognition for their parents. In 2014, Seattle's ACT (A Contemporary Theater) debuted "Hold These Truths," a 90-minute show telling the story of Gordon Hirabayashi's stand against the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese American citizens. For this performance, playwright Jeanne Sakata drew on Hirabayashi's letters as well as her own interviews with him. A section of the play is called "Letters to Howie."

The most touching honor, however, came in the completion of the violin that Ruane had helped Howard make. In 2004, one of the Scotts' grandsons, Nolle Pritchard (b. 1975), began taking courses in cabinetmaking at the North Bennet Street School in Boston. There he met another student, Jess Fox, who made and repaired violins. She asked Pritchard if he would build her two nightstands and jokingly said that they could trade work if he ever needed help repairing a violin. Pritchard had just such a project. Jess Fox recalled:

"When the remnants arrived from the West Coast, the major components were there ... a rib structure, front and back plate, arched and graduated, and a scroll fully carved. When I first saw it, I thought it was amazing that he could do what he did from typed-up notes and hand tracings. He had made his own calipers out of maple" (Thomas).

Fox kept the violin's odd features and character. The instrument was larger than a normal violin, yet smaller than a viola. Secondly there were burn marks most likely made by the tool Scott used to heat and bend the wood. While most of the body was carved from maple, its top was made from coniferous wood, but not the usual spruce. Howard said the wood came from a fruit crate at the prison.

Since the violin had never been assembled, it did not suffer the shrinkage and twisting that usually challenges restoration. When completed, Fox described it as "a beautiful piece of work" (Thomas). The instrument had a sweet, deep tone, more like a viola than a violin.

A Birthday Party to Remember

The violin parts had been a treasure in the Scott family for decades. Now completed and playable, the violin moved from family lore to reality. On Saturday, March 4, 2006, Howard Scott, "dressed in jeans, a flannel shirt and wingtip shoes," celebrated his 87th birthday at an assisted living facility in Lacey, near Olympia, surrounded by three generations of family: "On his harmonica he played 'My Blue Heaven'. Folks danced. They sang 'Happy Birthday.' He blew out candles, and everybody had cake and ice cream" (Thomas).

Then Pritchard presented his grandfather with his completed violin. The honored guest was Jess Fox, flown in to be a part of the festivities and to play the violin for Howard. She told him about the process of restoring it. The family had also bound Ruane's typed notes and drawings that Howard had used to guide the project.

Howard Scott's expression was one of great joy, amazement, and a sense of closure. Five years earlier he had retrieved the box of stored pieces and remarked to Pritchard, "I was amazed, and wanted to do something, but I didn't have the skills" (Thomas). Violin restorer Jess Fox did.

The Boston Globe published the violin story in 2006 and it came to the attention of Sarah Sentilles, a graduate of the Harvard and Yale divinity schools, who became interested in writing about art as a transformative response to war. She spoke with Howard on the phone, and then contacted his daughter Kayleen, who arranged for Sentilles to travel to Lacey and meet Howard. The family let Sentilles search through their collection of letters and memorabilia, and Kayleen shared more of their story. The Scotts' experience became one of two the author used in her book Draw Your Weapons, published by Random House in 2017. In it she interwove Howard's life story with that of a guard at Abu Ghraib, the U.S. prison in Iraq, who painted portraits of detainees on prison walls.

Howard B. Scott died October 29, 2012, at 93. Memorial services were held at the Friends Center in Seattle. During Howard's lifetime his message had been simple and direct. As Sentilles writes, "When did you know you were against war? I asked Howard the first time I visited. 'Is there anyone who's for it?' he said" (Sentilles, 137).


Margaret Riddle, David Dilgard, and Kayleen Scott Pritchard interview with Howard B. Scott, November 11, 2002, Everett, audio tapes and digital copy in possession of Margaret Riddle, Everett; Kayleen Scott Pritchard, email to Margaret Riddle, November 4-8, 2017, in possession of Margaret Riddle, Everett, Washington; Gordon Hirabayashi to Bertha Scott Carr, January 11, 1943, in possession of Kayleen Scott Pritchard, Indianola, Washington; Jack Thomas, "Howard Scott's Unfinished Sonata," The Boston Globe, March 7, 2006, Living Arts section, p. 1; Sarah Sentilles, Draw Your Weapons (New York: Random House, 2017); Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Hirabayashi, Gordon (1918-2012)" (by David Takami) and "Schmoe, Floyd W. (1895-2001)" (by Kit Oldham) (accessed October 20, 2017).

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