Our view: Howard Taylor, 1927 - 2007
There are countless commentators on race relations, both left and right, who talk about a colorblind society. Duluth's Howard Taylor, who died at 80 on Dec. 27, lived it, both figuratively and literally. "Howard was totally colorblind," Gary Klin...
There are countless commentators on race relations, both left and right, who talk about a colorblind society.
Duluth's Howard Taylor, who died at 80 on Dec. 27, lived it, both figuratively and literally.
"Howard was totally colorblind," Gary Klineschmidt recalled yesterday, describing Taylor as his best friend for 30 years. The two sold motorcycles together during the 1990s.
"He called everything 'Acapulco blue.' People walked into the store looking for a particular-colored bike. He'd say, 'There's one over there.' No matter what color it was, he'd call it Acapulco blue."
Klineschmidt said the concept extended to people. "He taught me colorblindness about race. He regarded everybody as Acapulco blue."
Born in Brandon, Miss., Taylor moved to Duluth in the 1950s and worked at the U.S. Steel plant until it closed in the late '70s. In addition to the motorcycle sales job, he ran a rib wagon for years, and for even longer, from 1988 until two months before his death, served as a volunteer driver for St. Louis County, taking people in need to medical appointments and other services across the state.
"This summer, he drove over 3,000 miles a month for the county," said the program's coordinator, Irene Schmidt, adding Taylor was well-liked by the hundreds of patrons on sometimes-daily jaunts to Rochester, Mankato and Brainerd.
"He would drive through any kind of weather. He very rarely turned down a ride."
Fellow Central Hillside activist Portia Johnson also drove as a county volunteer, yet said Taylor helped her by driving her to Tennessee to attend a funeral once. She too teased him about colorblindness, saying "he wore two different colored socks" at times and that his lack of color differences applied to people. But she also recalled him as a "one-man welcoming committee for the black community," directing newcomers to resources as simple as where to find black hair care products.
That generosity extended to anyone in need. "If he knew of anyone who had furniture they were giving away, he'd get it to the people in need," Johnson said.
Lakeside's Dudley Edmondson said that resourcefulness led Taylor to first-name relationships with a string of Duluth mayors and police chiefs in search of help for the needy.
"He could walk into their offices anytime, and they welcomed him," Edmondson said.
"There are few people who I've run across who don't know who Howard Taylor is," he said, "and the first thing they would say is he was a very nice man."
A memorial service for Taylor will be held at 11 a.m. today at the First United Methodist Church (Coppertop Church), 230 East Skyline Parkway.