October 26, 2020

First black bishop to lead an American Catholic diocese dies in Mississippi

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Bishop Joseph Howze, a pioneering black Catholic bishop, had died at 95.

The Diocese of Biloxi announced Howze’s death Wednesday. Howze was the first black bishop to lead an American Catholic diocese in the 20th century.

Diocesan spokesman Terry Dickson says Howze died at a hospital in Ocean Springs.

Born in Daphne, Alabama, Howze led the diocese from 1977 until 2001.

First a Baptist and then a Methodist, Howze said he was drawn to Catholicism by a student he taught at Central High School in Mobile. Ordained in 1959 as a priest for the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, Pope Paul VI appointed Howze as auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson. When split into dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi in 1977, Pope Paul VI named Howze to lead the Biloxi church.