Dixie Howell
Dixie Howell.jpg
circa 1934
Biographical details
Born(1912-11-24)November 24, 1912
Hartford, Alabama
DiedMarch 2, 1971(1971-03-02) (aged 58)
Hollywood, California
Playing career
1937Washington Redskins
1935–1942minor leagues
Position(s)Halfback (football)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1935Pumas CU
1936Loyola (LA) (backs)
1938–1941Arizona State
1946Alabama (backs)
late 1950sFurman (assistant)
Head coaching record
Overall36–35–5 (college football)
42–40–1 (college baseball)
Accomplishments and honors
2 Border (1939, 1940)
All-American, 1934
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1970 (profile)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1942–1945
US-O4 insignia.svg
Lieutenant Commander
Battles/warsWorld War II

Millard Fleming "Dixie" Howell (November 24, 1912 – March 2, 1971) was an American football and baseball player and coach. He played college football as a halfback at the University of Alabama from 1932 to 1934 and with the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (NFL) in 1937. Howell served as the head football coach at Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, now Arizona State University, from 1938 to 1941 and at the University of Idaho from 1947 to 1950, compiling a career coaching record of 36–35–5 in college football. He also coached at the National University of Mexico in 1935. Howell was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1970. He also played professional baseball in eight minor league seasons following college.

Playing career


Born in Hartford, Alabama, Howell graduated from Geneva County High School in Hartford and played college football as an undersized (160 lb (73 kg)) quadruple-threat back at Alabama from 1932 to 1934.[1] As a senior, the Crimson Tide ran the Notre Dame Box offense, and he was a consensus All-American in 1934, as well as one of the nation's top punters. The 1934 Alabama team had two future legends as ends: Don Hutson and Paul "Bear" Bryant. The Crimson Tide posted a 10–0 record, and defeated previously unbeaten Stanford 29-13 in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, 1935. Howell threw two touchdown passes to Hutson and ran for two more; he is a member of the all-time Rose Bowl team.[2]

In 1937, Howell briefly played professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for the Washington Redskins, who had just relocated from Boston. The Redskins had lost the NFL championship game in 1936 to Green Bay, but returned to the title game in 1937 and defeated the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field. Howell was a reserve quarterback for the Redskins, behind starter Sammy Baugh. He became a collegiate head coach in 1938 and ended his football playing career.


Howell also played baseball for the Crimson Tide and originally indicated he would finish out the college baseball season in 1935 and turn pro that June.[3] Plans changed and he signed a professional baseball contract with the Detroit Tigers in early March[4][5] and played minor league baseball through 1942.

A month after signing, he was hospitalized after being struck in the head by a foul line drive; it occurred during batting practice before an April exhibition game in Virginia, off the bat of Johnny Mize.[6] In 1936 he played with Portland in the Pacific Coast League, then was moved to Toledo in the American Association. His career tailed off and he spent the rest of his baseball career in lower leagues.[7] After service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he did not return as a player and became the head coach at Alabama in January 1946 and resigned in March 1947 to become head football coach at Idaho.[8]

Coaching career

While pursuing his baseball career, Howell coached football in his autumn off-seasons; in Mexico City in 1935 with the American football team of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and as an assistant at Loyola of New Orleans in 1936. [9]

Following a season in the NFL in 1937, he was hired as head coach at the Arizona State Teachers College in Tempe,[10] and stayed for four seasons (1938–1941) with the Bulldogs,[11] with two conference titles and two appearances in the Sun Bowl.[12] He was a finalist for the open job at Idaho in 1941 to succeed Ted Bank,[13] which went to Francis Schmidt, then resigned his position at Tempe in the spring of 1942 and joined the U.S. Navy as a physical training instructor for naval aviators.[12][14] He served until his discharge as a lieutenant commander in November 1945, then returned to Tuscaloosa in January 1946 as an assistant football coach (backs) and head baseball coach for the Crimson Tide.[9]

Howell was hired as head football coach at Idaho of the Pacific Coast Conference in February 1947,[15] and guided the usually-struggling Vandals to a promising 4–4 record in his first season in Moscow, Idaho's best since 1938.[16] The Vandals beat Stanford on the road, a team that had defeated them 45–0 the previous year (but went winless in 1947). It was Idaho's second-ever football victory over a PCC team from California, following a victory over first-year UCLA in 1928. The Vandals also knocked off an undefeated Utah in the season finale in Boise. The Vandals drew a Palouse and state record crowd to Neale Stadium for their annual rivalry game with Washington State in October, albeit a close 7–0 loss to the Cougars.[17][18] These promising factors earned Howell a two-year contract extension through 1950.[19][20] The progress did not continue, as the Vandals opened the 1948 season with four losses and went 3–6 overall and 1–5 in conference, defeating only Montana for the Little Brown Stein. Idaho played Washington State close at Rogers Field in Pullman and gave Oregon a scare in Moscow.[21] The Webfoots, with Norm Van Brocklin and John McKay, went 7–0 in conference and were co-champions with California.

Howell's relationship with Idaho fans and the administration was strained following the 1949 season.[22] The Vandals went 3–5 and 1–4 in conference that season, defeating only departing Montana again. Their two non-conference wins were against overmatched opponents Willamette and Portland, and the Vandals were severely outscored 230–45 in their five losses, capped by a 63–0 loss at Stanford to end the season.[23] Howell felt compelled to publicly deny rumors in April that he would leave before the 1950 season.[24]

The Vandals posted a 3–5–1 record in 1950 and 1–1–1 in conference, and Howell's contract was not renewed in March 1951.[25] Assistant coach Babe Curfman succeeded him, after leading the team through its spring drills on an interim basis.[26]

While Howell was the head coach, the Idaho Vandals wore red jerseys.[27][28][29][30]

In media

Howell had an uncredited role in the 1936 movie, The Adventures of Frank Merriwell as a football player.[31] In the book To Kill a Mockingbird chapter 11, Scout, in an attempt to cheer up her brother, tells him he resembles Dixie Howell.

Howell is also mentioned in Randy Newman's song "My Daddy Knew Dixie Howell" from the album Good Old Boys.

After coaching

Howell got out of coaching and later worked in the Los Angeles area in sales and public relations. He had two operations for intestinal cancer in 1969[32] and 1971 and died at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in March 1971 at age 58.[33] and was buried in Alabama in his hometown of Hartford.[34] His wife, former actress Peggy Watters Howell (1914–2006),[35][36] outlived him by 35 years and is buried beside him.[37]

Weeks after his death, Alabama created an award in his name, given to the outstanding player of the annual spring game.[2]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Arizona State Bulldogs (Border Conference) (1938–1941)
1938 Arizona State 3–6 0–5 7th
1939 Arizona State 8–2–1 5–1 1st T Sun
1940 Arizona State 7–2–2 4–1–1 1st L Sun
1941 Arizona State 5–5–1 2–4–1 7th
Arizona State: 23–15–4 11–11–2
Idaho Vandals (Pacific Coast Conference) (1947–1950)
1947 Idaho 4–4 1–4 9th
1948 Idaho 3–6 1–5 9th
1949 Idaho 3–5 1–4 9th
1950 Idaho 3–5–1 1–1–1 T–4th
Idaho: 13–20–1 4–14–1
Total: 36–35–5
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ Browning, Al (April 26, 1981). "Howell wasn't just whistling 'Dixie'". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. p. B1.
  2. ^ a b "New A-Day award will honor Howell". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. April 20, 1971. p. 6.
  3. ^ "Dixie Howell may join Detroit Tigers". Ludington Daily News. Michigan. Associated Press. January 28, 1935. p. 2.
  4. ^ "Howell will play with Detroit Tigers". Palm Beach Post. Florida. Associated Press. March 6, 1935. p. 7.
  5. ^ "Howell is slated to join Tigers' baseball farm". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. March 15, 1935. p. 2-sports.
  6. ^ "Dixie Howell remains in serious shape in hospital". Spartanburg Herald. Associated Press. April 12, 1935. p. 3.
  7. ^ "Dixie Howell signs with Oklahoma City". Berkeley Daily Gazette. California. United Press. February 5, 1940. p. 10.
  8. ^ "Dixie Howell given head coaching job at University of Idaho". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. February 27, 1947. p. 12.
  9. ^ a b "Howell named Alabama coach". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. January 27, 1946. p. 7.
  10. ^ "Oliver named head coach at Oregon; Howell gets Tempe job". Evening Courier. Prescott, Arizona. Associated Press. January 27, 1938. p. 5.
  11. ^ Mark, Jay (May 6, 2016). "Tempe history: How a big college football star came to coach at Arizona State". Arizona Republic. Phoenix. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "'Dixie' Howell quits at Tempe". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. Associated Press. March 14, 1942. p. 2, sports.
  13. ^ "Dixie Howell views Idaho". Prescott Evening Courier. (Arizona). Associated Press. March 14, 1941. p. 5.
  14. ^ "Charles Gelbart, Dixie Howell, John Kelly are P.T. instructors now". Ottawa Citizen. Canada. Associated Press. August 25, 1942. p. 8.
  15. ^ "Howell signed by Idaho U." Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. Associated Press. February 27, 1947. p. 9.
  16. ^ "Football (fall 1947)". Gem of the Mountains. University of Idaho yearbook. 1948. pp. 282–294.
  17. ^ "Cougars claw Idaho Vandals 7-0". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. October 5, 1947. p. 1-sports.
  18. ^ "Grid fans pack Moscow stadium". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. October 4, 1947. p. 1.
  19. ^ "Dixie Howell signs new two-year contract as Idaho football coach". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. April 28, 1948. p. 8.
  20. ^ "Dixie Howell signs new Idaho contract". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. April 27, 1948. p. 21.
  21. ^ "Action in pictures of Idaho's valiant losing battle against Oregon". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. October 10, 1948. p. 3-sports.
  22. ^ "Report says Howell under fire". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. Associated Press. April 8, 1950. p. 8.
  23. ^ "Idaho - 1945-49". College Football Data Warehouse. yearly results. Archived from the original on October 8, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  24. ^ "Howell denies he will leave Idaho grid job". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. April 18, 1950. p. 17.
  25. ^ "Dixie Howell resigns as Idaho football coach". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. March 27, 1951. p. 21.
  26. ^ "Idaho selects Curfman as coach". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. April 17, 1951. p. 14.
  27. ^ "On the field: varsity and intramurals (color photo): Oregon at Idaho, October 9, 1948". Gem of the Mountains. University of Idaho yearbook. 1949. p. 218.
  28. ^ "Reds wallop Whites in finale of Idaho grid spring training, 41 to 14". May 13, 1948. p. 12.
  29. ^ "Cougars, Idaho tapering off on football tuneups". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. September 13, 1948. p. 15.
  30. ^ "Reds win Idaho practice game". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. May 7, 1950. p. 2, sports.
  31. ^ Millard 'Dixie' Howell
  32. ^ "Howell tumor is malignant". Press-Courier. Oxnard, California. Associated Press. October 1, 1969. p. 21.
  33. ^ "Former Tide star dies at 58". Spartanburg Herald. South Carolina. Associated Press. March 3, 1971. p. 15.
  34. ^ Marshall, Phillip (March 3, 1971). "'Dixie' Howell to be buried in Hartford". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. p. 9.
  35. ^ "Dixie Howell to wed film actress Nov. 24". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. November 15, 1935. p. 7, part 2.
  36. ^ "Peggy Waters marries Dixie football star". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. November 25, 1935. p. 5.
  37. ^ "Peggy Howell". Find A Grave. Retrieved October 20, 2014.