Ken Howard Dead at 71

Ken Howard, 71, president of SAG-AFTRA and an Emmy and Tony award-winning actor, died Wednesday at his home outside Los Angeles.

Howard, who helped guide the merger of SAG and AFTRA in 2012, was elected president of SAG in 2009, re-elected in 2011, was named copresident when the unions merged in 2012 and was the first elected president of the combined union in 2013.

Howard chaired the code negotiating committee that struck a new three-year agreement last fall that unified the legacy TV contracts under the merged union. The code includes all TV programming except scripted primetime, which means it covers first-run syndicated dramas, morning news, talk shows, soaps, reality, contests, sports and promos.

“Ken was an inspirational leader and it is an incredible loss for SAG-AFTRA, for his family and for everyone who knew him," said SAG-AFTRA acting president Gabrielle Carteris. "He was a light that never dimmed and was completely devoted to the membership. He led us through tumultuous times and set our union on a steady course of excellence. We will be forever in his debt.”

“It was with great sadness that I learned of Ken Howard’s passing today," said Writers Guild of America, West President Howard A. Rodman. "He was a tireless advocate for social justice, for his union, and for its members. It is a fitting tribute to his commitment to improving the lives of actors, broadcasters and recording artists that he was the first president of the united SAG-AFTRA. He will be missed as a leader and as a bright light in the creative community. On behalf of the WGAW I would like to send our condolences to his family, his friends, and all those whose lives he touched throughout his long and exemplary career.”

A former high school basketball standout, Howard was probably best known to Boomer TV fans for his role as Coach Ken Reeves on The White Shadow, based on his experience as the only white player on his high school team, or as Hank Hooper on 30 Rock.

Howard was a graduate of Amherst and got a fellowship at the Yale School of Drama before leaving to make his Broadway debut in 1968 in "Promises, Promises".

Howard's other TV roles, in addition to as a fighter for better wages and working conditions, have included Boston Legal, Dynasty, Melrose Place, Crossing Jordan and the veritable host of others.

Howard is survived by his wife, Linda Fetters Howard, a stuntwoman and former president of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures, and three stepchildren from a previous marriage.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and the Onyx and Breezy Foundation for the Welfare of Animals.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.