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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Man in Full

My father died on March 5.  I invited my old friend Brent Bourland to give the eulogy.  He'd known him for years, and seemed to have an innate understanding of my father's personality and character.  They both seemed to share the same joy of life, love of the outdoors and grabbing life by the horns and enjoying the ride.  And they both seem ageless, youth refusing to leave them be.  This is the eulogy Brent gave, which was beautiful, heartfelt and eloquent.  Thank you, Brent.

A MAN IN FULL, Howard Pritchartt was A MAN IN FULL.

As I look around, almost everyone in this room has had the good fortune to be a part of Natchez and its rich past and continuing history.  But very few of us have had the great fortune to be the ultimate insider and also a dedicated and stubborn outsider.  Howard Pritchartt chose that course.  You could say that Howard was born a Natchez blueblood with Mississippi river mud in his soul. 

Having been born into one of the "oldest" families in Natchez, Howard, as a boy, was welcome walking into the back door of Stanton Hall and then getting out of there as fast as he could to go look for adventure in the mud on the banks of his great friend the River.

Howard was comfortable with the powerful of Natchez, whom he loved to skewer with relish at every opportunity but he was really in his World with his many friends Under the Hill, like Joe Remondet and Steve Stevens, as well as George Guido, Johnny Ogden, Lucius Butts, Neville Marshall and a host of others I can’t recall off the top of my head. .................... 

Howard kept his beloved boats tied to Steve's makeshift barge Under the Hill with its walkway made of old boards, oil drums and cables.  How it stayed afloat and tied to the willow trees along the bank we'll never understand.   Howard would grab Joe and Steve and any other handy river rat and head out for a day on the river, a bunch of overgrown Huck Finns, just glad to be alive.  Howard was always alive, very, very alive.  You could also count on a big fish fry of river blue cats when they got back.  Life was good for Howard and his many friends, Howard made sure of that. Howard shared.

I can still see Howard walking in the unlocked back door to the President's Office of City Bank and Trust Company.  Ethel would shout, "Leslie, Howard's here", (that was the intercom of the day) and Leslie Carpenter would shout, "Well, tell him to come on back", of course by that time Howard was already sitting down in front of the desk.  Five minutes later a financial transaction would be struck on a handshake and paper work might or might not be done later.  These were men of character, along with many others of their day, and they knew each other and they knew that they were good for their word.

Howard shared. Few people knew all the many quiet kindnesses that Howard made happen.  If a man needed a handy job to feed his kids, Howard seemed to find one for him.  If someone was behind on her rent, well, somehow it just got taken care of.  If a kid needed a little help getting through school, Howard had a way of making that happen, most of the time without them ever knowing who or how.  Howard Shared.

Howard was a protector and he could be fierce and he could intimidate when he needed to.  Just try being a young man trying to get anywhere near one of his two daughters.  I’m surprised either one of them ever got a date before they were 25 years old. 

My first real memory of Howard was going to pick Elodie up at her house on Linton Avenue to take her to the King’s Ball.  It was about dusk but Howard was in the yard watering the lawn, he didn’t speak when I walked by.  When Elodie and I came back down the sidewalk, long dress and tux, Howard causally turned the water hose on us and made his feelings clearly known.  That is my daughter and you watch it boy. (You might also add he laughed his ass off as he did it while we fumed)  It was clear, Howard Pritchartt was not a man to be crossed.  Howard would do whatever it took to protect what he loved most, his family.

A few years later on a hot, steamy summer day, a bunch of us were over at Howard’s place on old river.  I wasn’t sure Howard was very pleased to have me there.  After a while Howard said he needed help with a fishtrap out in the river and asked me to go out and check it.  It was about 100 feet off the bank in about 4 feet of muddy water.  I wasn’t crazy about the idea but it really wasn’t a request; it was more of an order.  It was a test and we both knew it.  Howard wanted to know what kind of a man you were.  He already knew what kind he was.  So out I went deeper and deeper over my waist.  I got to the trap and got a grip on the big homemade fishtrap and lifted up out of the water to eye level.  I was face to face with the biggest snake on the entire Mississippi river.   It was just a water snake, and drowned, but big as an anaconda, especially face to face.  Howard knew it was in there.  I flunked the hell out of that test.  You might say Howard and I had a little rocky start.  But I think I really learned how to swim really fast that day. 

Howard loved and pursued life with a passion, a fierce passion.  Howard was fit and he made sure he stayed that way because that gave him the physical presence to pursue all of his life's many passions.  When most men in their 60s, 70s or even 80s are taking it easy, winding down, looking for a rocking chair, not Howard. You were likely to find him on his side porch, drenched in sweat, on his Olympic bench press lifting more weights than a man in his twenties.  Howard hated old age and he fought it.  He fought it fiercely.  No man will ever win that fight and Howard knew that but it didn’t keep him from fighting it at every turn.  And he damn near won.  After all Howard Pritchartt was A MAN IN FULL.  

Delivered March 9, 2013 at the funeral of William Howard Pritchartt, Jr. by Brent Bourland.


  1. I would have loved to have known your father. He will always be a "A Man in Full."

  2. I really enjoyed the reading and will never forget your Dad....!
    this story is a wonderful portrayal of Howard and his love of life.

    Great photo, I have not seen this one before....