Duncan Howlett

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Howlett, Duncan (15 May 1906 — )

Howlett was born in Newton, Massachusetts, received his LL. B. degree in 1931, in which year he was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.

After practicing law for two years, he returned to Harvard, studied to me a minister, and served from 1933 to 1938 as minister of the Second Church Unitarian, in Salem. He then went to the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts from 1938 to 1946, marrying Carolyn Abbot Chance in 1943. He then became minister of the First Church in Boston, Unitarian, a position he held for twelve years. In 1958 he was called to All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, DC, retiring in 1968, at which time he was appointed to Hubert Humphrey's Presidential campaign staff.

Clifton Davis, librarian emeritus of Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine, continues by describing Howlett's career from that point]:

In addition to his concern with public affairs during the entire range of his ministry, Howlett played an active role in Unitarian denominational affairs. Among the various committees and boards on which he served were those of the Beacon Press, the Historical Library, and the Christian Register. He was President of the Unitarian Historical Society, Chairman of Commission I, "The Church and Its Leadership"; Chairman of the Washington Advisory Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association Department of Social Responsibility; member of Harvard University Overseer's Committee to visit the Divinity School (1940-62); Chairman, D.C. Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; and member of the D.C. Commissioners' Crime Council; Executive Committee of the Washington Home Rule Commission; and the Washington Urban Institute.


Howlett has written the following: Man Against the Church, The Struggle Between Religion and Ecclesiasticism (1954); The Essenes and Christianity; An Interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1957); The Fourth American Faith (1964); No Greater Love: The James Reeb Story (1966); The Critical Way in Religion (1980); and The Fatal Flaw at the Heart of Religious Liberalism (1995). In the latter work, he notes that religious liberals have never achieved their goal, and he holds that this is because they come to a point at which they cease asking questions. Then, reaching out for new concepts, they return to the old dogmatic pattern of belief by faith. Howlett suggests that the failure of liberals to eliminate this contradiction from the new thought structure they sought to build has ultimately destroyed the movement, and he calls for a new struggle by religious liberals.

The Harvard College Class of 1928

Photographs of Howlett in his Harvard College Class of 1928 and of the 50th Anniversary Report further detail his life as a minister.