Robert G. Howlett
Robert Howlett is a successful attorney, a member of the Grand Rapids law firm of Schmidt, Smith, Howlett and Halliday.
Bob is married to the former Barbara Withey; their three children are: Eleanor, born in 1939, Craig in 1940 and Douglas in 1944. But Bob has two loves in his life--one is the law, and the other is public service. For the latter, his dedication is unsurpassed. For the law, his knowledge and abilities have gained him the respect and admiration of his peers.
Born in Bay City, Michigan on November 10, 1906, Bob graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1925, from Northwestern University College of Liberal Arts in 1929 and Northwestern University Law School in 1932. While at Northwestern, he was elected to membership in Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Alpha Delta, Delta Sigma Rho and Deru (Senior Menís Honorary Society).
His parents, Anne and Lewis G. Howlett, are well-known to Grand Rapids. His father now a retired engineer and manufacturer, farms 240 acres in Van Buren County and his mother for many years was a home economics teacher in the Putman School of the YWCA.
Perhaps I should say that Bob has three loves; aside from law, political and community interests, Bob is a cook. In a word, his cooking is epicurean. Specialties a la Robert are tout almandine, hunters rabbit and Chinese duck. Any one of these served by a host who is something of an expert on wines, makes for gracious and elegant dining.
Then there is Bobís golf. I asked about his game and how it happened that he and Stan Todd were on the course of Kent Country Club at 6 A.M. when they turned in the fire alarm on that fateful dawn. "Well," he replied, "I was so bad at golf that I didnít want to run the chance of anyone else seeing me play; then, too, I was never certain whether my ball might cause a fatality. I didnít dare risk playing when the course was crowed. Now, however," he added, "Iím still not very good but I can play with other people."
"How did you become interested in politics," I asked. "I guess it was because of my great uncle, C. L. Glasgow," Bob replied. "Great uncle Glasgow served in the Michigan Senate and as Commissioner and then Chairman of the Railroad Commission. He was a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor in 1920." Always a staunch supporter of the two-party system, Bob is a moderate Republican who feels that each party should have within its borders a spectrum of interests--left and right, conservative and liberal, farmer and city, manufacturer and laborer, philosopher and pragmatist, professional and artisan. "If we were to divide between conservatives and liberals, one viewpoint might become so paramount that we would move too fast and too far in one direction with damage to the whole of our society." Bob is a former Kent County Republican Chairman.
Bob Howlett is a noted arbitrator and mediator, one who believes in management-labor co-operation, that their ultimate interests are one and the same. "As such," I asked him, "arenít you often accused of being pro-labor or pro-management?" He replied, "Yes, I am pro-labor. I am also pro-management, pro-employee and pro-owner. Each of these interests is a necessary part of our economy. None can be successful, create a better living and life for all, or build a strong economy without the other.
"Collective bargaining as an instrument of public policy," he continued, "can be justified only on the promise that there will be a sincere and determined effort to accommodate divergent views and objectives through full discussion, persuasion and reason before recourse to force is considered. If collective bargaining negotiations are just a prelude to an inevitable battle on the economic front, there are ominous implications for such collective bargaining. Many employers," he added after a momentís thought, "have fallen victim to the Marx-Engel philosophy. The employer who looks upon his employees as a commodity, the one who believes that all unions and union leaders are pernicious, the employer whose aim in life is to destroy or, at least, beat the union, is, consciously or unconsciously, a victim of the Marxian philosophy.
"Our American heritage," he continued, "our American system -- is that we have no classes, that the ultimate aims of capital and labor are the same; that, while we may have difference, we are all basically trying to reach the same goal. We are all striving for a higher standard of living and a better way of life for everyone. This is the co-operative or partnership view of labor relations."
Bob has a note-book, or rather a "tome," containing speeches and articles which he has written. Many of them have been published. One of more recent I noted was "The Battle of Hillsdale -- the Essex Wire Strike Emergency," published in The Labor Law Journal, December, 1965.
The interview turned next to the subject of the theatre and I asked Bob if he wasnít at one time interested in the Grand Rapids Civic Theater. "Yes," he replied, "I was and still am. I served some years on the Board as Vice-President, and played two small roles -- one in ĎEdward My Soní and another, as ĎDocí in the Civic first production several years ago of ĎMister Roberts.í Iíd still enjoy being on stage -- we all have a bit of ham in us," he smiled, "but when I travel some twenty-five hundred miles each month I am afraid my wife wouldnít like it!"
Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 23 February 2010
Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 23 February 2010