Gregory Allen Howard, the first African American screenwriter for a $100 million drama with Remember The Titans, died today in Miami after a brief illness, his publicist said. He was 70.
Howard also was the only African American screenwriter to write a spec script that became a $100 million movie, also for Remember the Titanswhich starred Denzel Washington and was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.
His credits included Ali, starring Will Smith and Jamie Foxx, directed by Michael Mannas, as well as the award-winning stage play Tinseltown Trilogy. Howard was a two-time winner of the NAACP Image Awards, and also won the Christopher Award, the Howard University Paul Robeson Award for artistic excellence, and the Heartland Film Festival Award for screenwriting excellence.
Harrietoriginally titled Freedom Fire, was Howard’s first feature assignment more than 28 years ago at Disney. Eventually, the movie was made and starred Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monae and Joe Alwyn, with direction by Kasi Lemmons.
Born in Norfolk, VA., Howard moved often as a child before settling in Vallejo, Calif. He went on to graduate from Princeton with a degree in American History, which served him well with his focus on historical topics in his screenwriting.
After leaving Los Angeles to return to his native Virginia, Howard learned the story of the 1971 TC Williams High School football team, the Titans. Howard, who played offensive lineman on his high school and college football teams, was inspired by the unique story of the integration of the championship high school football team that people in the town of Alexandria, Virginia credited for the town’s positive race relations.
As an essayist, Howard contributed to the Taschen Muhammad Ali photo/art book GOAT: Greatest of All Time. His essay, “Rumble in an Urban Jungle,” was chosen as the introduction.
As a writer and producer, Greg wrote The Harlem Renaissancea limited series for HBO; Misty, the story of prima ballerina Misty Copeland for New Line Cinema. He also wrote This Little Light, the Fannie Lou Hamer story for Chris Columbus’s 1492 Pictures. Most recently, he wrote the civil rights project Power to the People for producer Ben Affleck and Paramount Pictures.
In theater, Howard authored the award-winning play Tinseltown Trilogy, directed by Emmy-winner Ted Lange. He was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwright Award.
He is survived by his sister, Lynette Henley, and brother, Michael Henley (Denise), nieces Robyn Bacon (Rachael Martin) and Valencia Kamara (OZ) and nephew, Robert Henley, as well as by his beloved grandniece and two grandnephews, and cousins Pierre Gatling and the Honorable Patricia Cole.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Camille Cole Howard and his brother, Ricardo J. Henley.