LW NAACP President Wanda Howard Ends Lengthy Battle with Cancer
Last updated 12/11/2019 at 9:15am
Lake Wales NAACP Chapter President Wanda Howard died Sunday of cardiac arrest after an 18-year battle with cancer.
"This is a very sad day for the City of Lake Wales. Wanda was such a bright light for our community. She will be missed in so many ways," said Mayor Eugene Fultz.
Howard became NAACP Branch 5109 president in January 2017, the first female to serve in that capacity. She was named branch president of the year at the state conference in September.
She joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1986, right out of college, and was a Life Member. She previously served as Youth Council Advisor with emphasis on the ACT-SO and Back-2-School/Stay-in-School programs. At the state conference in October Howard also was elected as member at large for the Executive Committee for the Florida NAACP, garnering 154 of the 156 votes cast.
"I just count it all as the work of God that wants me to do this," Howard said at the time.
A native of Lake Wales and 1977 graduate of Lake Wales High School, Howard earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Florida. She obtained her Master of Arts in Curriculum & Instruction in Education from National Louis University, Tampa. She is a Diamond Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Life Member of the University of South Florida Alumni Association, and Life Member of Heart of Florida Girl Scouts Council.
"We lost a warrior who was a pillar in our community," said Lake Wales City Commissioner Curtis Gibson, who said he considered Howard a mentor, someone he called upon for advice. "She advocated for what she believed in and what we need. She will be greatly missed, but we will keep moving forward so her work won't be in vain."
Howard was very active in her church, the Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church of Lake Wales, serving as church clerk and in various other capacities. She was a past member of Polk County Healthy Start Coalition, League of Women Voters of Polk County, and American Association of University Women. She has worked and volunteered in many local schools and was recognized as Volunteer of the Year at Lake Wales Senior High School for the 2011-12 school year.
Her community and civic engagement activities resulted in her recognition by Congressman Darren Soto as a Distinguished Leader in Central Florida for Black History Month with the honor being recorded in the Congressional Records of the 115th Congress, Second Session. The Lake Wales City Commission recently issued a proclamation, honoring her service
Howard was the youngest of six children from the late Lessie Mae Howard Rivers and the late David Rivers Sr. Howard had two children, Stephen Henry and Shameka Henry Burkes, four grandchildren, Keyonna Henry, Elisha Burkes, Jeriah Henry and Isaiah Burkes, and one great grandchild, Kensley Hinson.
Services are incomplete. Alexander Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.