The life of former state Assemblyman Howard Wayne was remembered by some 150 friends and relatives Saturday as one exemplified by a sharp wit and a deep understanding of government and politics.
His brother, Bob, a Seattle attorney, told the standing-room-only crowd at Elijah’s Restaurant in Kearny Mesa that Howard was born on the day that Harry S Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in 1948, and that Howard died on his 75th birthday in 2023.
“He would take pride that he was born and died on a day that a Democrat was in the White House,” said his younger brother.
Bob Wayne recalled one of the earliest campaigns in which they both took part — in the early 1960s when Murray Goodrich was running for San Diego mayor unsuccessfully against Frank Curran.
The brothers handed out flyers at the Mission Valley mall until security guards escorted them out. Finding themselves with a stack of unused flyers, they put them under the windshield wipers of the cars in the parking lot.
Much later in Howard’s life, his brother reported, a young person at a Democratic club meeting asked Howard: “‘Why should we listen to old white men?’ And Howard stood up and said, ‘You just hit the trifecta — you’ve got ageism, racism and sexism.’”
Ed Millican, who preceded Howard as a president of the Young Democratic Club at San Diego State University, later ran for City Council and enlisted Howard to serve as the campaign treasurer.
“My campaign received a check from an individual who I will not name because he may still be around and have access to hit men, but we needed the money and Howard asked me what shall we do with this.
“I said ‘Keep it, we need it.’ He looked at me quizzically. A few weeks later, he told me ‘By the way, I want you to know I tore the check up.’”
Millican said he responded, “If you did it, Howard, you probably were right.”
Former state Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego) whom Howard has succeeded in the Assembly, commented: “When people wanted actually to understand what a bill did, and what it said, they went over to Howard’s desk to ask because he read everything, he knew everything, he understood everything, and so he really was the person that all of us turned to. What a difference that Howard made for government here in the State of California!”
Besides Alpert, other former and present Democratic legislators, members of Congress and City Council members on hand were Denise Ducheny, Christine Kehoe, Lynn Schenk, Susan Davis, Lori Saldaña and Chris Ward.
Mike Schaefer, a member of the state Board of Equalization — and at 86, the oldest state constitutional officer in California — also attended.
Also recognized in the audience were Rich Leib, chairman of the University of California Board of Regents; former Superior Court Judge Susan Finlay; San Diego Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell, and former San Diego school board member Sue Braun.
Ward, now a state assemblyman, recalled that when he served on the San Diego City Council, on occasion he would see Howard sitting in the front row of the audience “with binders in his lap.”
Howard “always did his homework,” Ward said. “Some of these were complicated issues, but Howard was always right on the positions he was taking.”
When the state Legislature reconvenes after the Thanksgiving break, he said, he will make it a point to honor Wayne by requesting that a session of the Assembly be adjourned in his memory.
Pat Libby commented that she and Wayne co-taught a class about legislative advocacy at the University of San Diego (where Howard years before had graduated from law school).
Howard called her Ms. Outside whereas he as a former legislator was Mr. Inside. She said that they assigned their students the task of getting a bill through the California Legislature — a task that students thought was well beyond their capabilities.
“Because Howard was such a great professor, our students passed many significant laws,” she said.
While Wayne was a member of the Jewish community, he wasn’t very vocal about it, prompting Jim Grant to comment: “Howard was very patient with me. I would explain to him things about my faith, and finally he said ‘Jim, you know I am Jewish too.’ I said ‘Well, I know that now.’ Howard was a mensch and I will say kaddish for him.”
Grant’s anecdote prompted my recollection that when Wayne was first running for office, I was then editor of the now defunct San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage. I asked Howard what connections he had with the Jewish community. He responded, ‘Well let me think. … My mom and dad are Jewish.”
Ken Cohen emceed the event and attorney Jim Spievak served as Cohen’s co-chair, both at the request of Howard’s wife, Mary Lundberg.
Spievak recalled that Howard overcame stuttering so well that he was able to win a speech competition sponsored by the Jaycees, an organization that admitted only male members until Spievak and Howard teamed to admit the club’s first female member over the objections of the national organization.
The co-chairman of the Celebration of Life also reported that Howard “loved the law and the U.S. Constitution. He studied and observed the Roberts Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure.
“How many of you here have the U.S. Constitution and Roberts Rules of Order in your homes, and know where they are? Howard did!”
Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. A version of this story first appeared on San Diego Jewish World, a member of the San Diego Online News Association.