By Rick and Christy Womack

Charles “Charlie” Howard passed away November 5 after an extended illness at Vanderbilt Hospital. Despite the fact that he had battled infections since April, and had mostly been hospitalized since August, his friends and family are stunned at his loss.  

Charlie was larger than life, certainly in the horse world, but also to his students and his FFA members. The comments on Facebook from his students about the impact he had on their lives are moving, and he would be so pleased to know how his offbeat sense of humor, his encouragement, and the life lessons he imparted are playing out in countless students who are better off for having had him as their teacher and their advisor.

“For a man that was never a father, he was a father to many a child,” said Billy Morgan. “He helped raise my grandson. He was a unique guy and he had a special way about him.”

He was devoted to his students and his commitment extended way beyond the classroom. He ran horse judging teams, maintained the greenhouse at the school throughout the entire year, mentored FFA students, and served as friend/advisor/motivator to many, many students.

Since the early 1970s, Charlie was involved with the Tennessee Walking Horse, WHOA and the International horse show. He has attended all 41 years of the International and he was instrumental in the formation of that show.

“I met Charlie 42 years ago. He was very involved in the Kentucky Walking Horse Association at the time, and they were very involved with WHOA, so I met him through attending and judging Kentucky shows. We have been great friends ever since. He and Don and Louise Cooper would come down from Kentucky in the beginning when we held the show at Old Fort Park. Everything was temporary then, but they would come down and paint the ring, whatever needed to be done. That group knew how to have fun,” said Tommy Hall.
“Charlie supported all the WHOA shows.  Once he retired from school, he served on the WHOA board for the last two years and was Secretary this past year. He was the official greeter at the International handing out coffee and donuts every morning. He ran the silent auction. We will sorely miss him. He was always there when we needed him.”

After moving from Kentucky to middle Tennessee, Charlie spent every moment that he wasn’t with his students, at the barn, with his hands on horses. He and Mark Taylor had many partnerships on horses over the years.

“There was nothing Charlie loved more in life than a horse,” said Mark Taylor. “He was obsessed with horses, and he loved all the horses the same – from the most expensive to the least. He didn’t have any favorites.  He would always be so attached to every one of them. Sometimes it made it difficult when it was time to sell them,” Mark laughed. “He had the hardest time letting them go.”

Charlie was a talented amateur owner trainer and he enjoyed showing every chance he got. “He was a tough competitor,” Mark elaborated. “He didn’t like to lose. But mostly he liked getting everything he could out of a horse. He was very talented.”

Cindy Adams credits Charlie’s horsemanship with her horse Pearl Jam winning two world championships in 2003. “I know one thing, Pearl Jam wouldn’t be a world champion if it weren’t for Charlie. She was the meanest broodmare on the planet. But Charlie knew how to focus a horse’s energy in the right way. He was a great horseman.”
“We met 13 years ago at the International, and we had so much in common,” says Anne Frank. “We were both amateur owner trainers and we trained our horses together. We fed off each other. I had ideas, he had ideas, and we’d put them together to see what would work,” Anne explains.

“We went to horse shows together. My husband doesn’t care to go to shows so Charlie became my horse show chauffeur. I’ll miss that so much.

“We had so many good times. He was a great teacher. He had a gift for being able to explain things. He could put into words what you do with your hands when you’re riding. He always had the right words. He was so detailed in that way. He could teach anybody anything that he knew how to do,” said Anne.

“Charlie was an overall good guy,” said Bob Lawrence. “He was always good with my horses, in fact, I’m looking at a picture here of him when he rode one of my horses to a third at the Celebration. He was always very conscientious and we had a lot in common both being educators. We always got along.”

When Linda and Darwin James from Oklahoma first got into the Tennessee Walking Horse business, they were impressed with Charlie’s knowledge about the care and training of horses. 

“He was just so knowledgeable about horses,” said Linda James. “He taught us a lot about riding and about the care of the horses.”

“We met him through Nancy Groover at Womack Stables,” said Darwin James. “We were so impressed with him. He was such a talented amateur, and we were amateurs, so we knew we could learn a lot from him.” A friendship developed and in addition to caring for the James’ horses in Tennessee while they were in Oklahoma, Charlie visited them often. “He came here to help us with the horses here,” said Linda, “but we also went sightseeing and cooked a lot. We always had a great time together.”

“He was a great cook,” interjected Darwin. “And he liked to eat,” adds Linda. 

“His favorite foods were Mexican and Chinese,” said Mark Taylor. “He could eat that every day. I went to see him most every day he was in the hospital and I even slipped in with some of his favorite foods when he was in ICU to try to get him to eat. He was a great friend to all of us. He will be deeply missed.”

“His favorite thing to make was Paula Deen’s banana pudding,” remembers Lynn Womack. “When Cindy, Charlie and I were going to horse shows together, we would all make different foods to take with us. We took more food than horses to the horse show sometimes. We would help each other with our horses and we’d show each other’s horses, depending upon what the class specs were. He was so excited when Riley started showing horses, and later Emery. He walked thousands of miles with Riley up and down that barn hallway learning to show leadline.”

Charlie was good to his friends and he helped them in all kind of ways. “I met Charlie when we were both living in Kentucky,” said Lynn. “When we both moved back to Murfreesboro, I sort of hid out for a few years. Charlie asked me to show a colt for him to get me back in the show ring. Then he had me show some of his horses. He knew what he was doing. And in the process he became part of the family there at the barn.”
“He was also really close to his family. I remember when his niece Amanda came to live with him one summer. They were really close,” said Lynn.

Charlie cared for Rick’s dog Lucille whenever we were out of town, and he loved her as much as we did. “I could always count on him to take care of Lucille. He’d tell me when he thought she should go to the vet, or needed different food, or needed her teeth cleaned,” said Rick. “He always had an opinion.”

“He liked all critters,” said Linda James. “Cats, dogs, horses. He loved them all. He was such a tender-hearted person when it came to animals and people. He was a great friend.”

“He was such a good person,” said Mark Taylor. “He had a heart of gold. He had a hard time showing it at times, but if you needed him, even at 3am, he was always there for you. You could ask him for anything. But let him get beat and he wouldn’t talk to you the whole way home,” laughed Mark.

Charlie’s laughter was infectious and everyone remembers funny stories and antics he pulled. Lynn Womack said she’ll miss that mischievous giggle the most. “I’ll miss the way his eyes lit up when he laughed. Especially if he was saying something he shouldn’t.”

David Mason shared, “One time back in the 1980s, Charlie and I found some boots in a catalog that looked like they were Kroop boots but they were dirt cheap – like $14.95. When they came in, they were the ugliest things you’ve ever seen – they looked like they were plastic. We just looked at each other and started laughing. We laughed so hard, we fell in the floor and couldn’t catch our breath. And forever after that, every time I saw Charlie, I would think of those boots and we’d start laughing again.”

David Mason also remembered Charlie’s attention to detail. “He always worried about every little detail. If you asked him to feed for you one day, he’d have a million questions. Sometimes you’d just have to say, ‘I don’t know Charlie, just feed him!’”

After retiring from teaching, Charlie took on the responsibilities of driving the tack trailer for Winner’s Circle on the American Saddlebred circuit for David Thomas and Dana Thomas Kennamer.

Dana said “they took him into the Saddlebred business very quickly and he became friends with everyone. He was a great guy, a good asset to our business, and we will miss him.“

“Charlie was a great horseman,” said Tommy Hall. “I’ve never seen anybody love the horses like Charlie did, not only Tennessee Walking Horses but any breed. He loved the Saddlebreds. He loved all different breeds.”
“He took to people really easy,” elaborated David Thomas. “He was so easy to get to know. He made friends everywhere he went. He was an asset to our company because he was so trustworthy. He will be sadly missed by the company and all of our customers that he worked with.”

All of Charlie’s friends will miss him dearly as well. “He was my best friend,” Anne Frank shared. “I’ll miss him so much.”

“I loved Charlie to death,” said Buddy Young. “When we first met at the barn, we hit it off and became good friends over the horse business. He would do anything in the world for you if he liked you. I thought the world of him. I’m going to miss him.”