Howard Justiss grew up as a member of a large farming family in northeast Texas during the early years of the 20th century. He became a school teacher and high school principal, served in World War II, then earned a masters degree in social work and entered the field of child care services.
His career focused on meeting the need of children to grow up in stable families. He promoted programs that enabled children to remain in their natural families or to be adopted by other families, if necessary. He was influential in changing the emphasis of child care programs away from placement in "orphans homes" to adoption, especially among organizations associated with the Church of Christ. He was instrumental in founding Agape, a church-related social services agency in Nashville, Tennessee, which has expanded throughout the state and has inspired similar programs in other states. Because of his work, his alma mater, Abilene Christian University, honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Citation in 1998.
During and since his gradual retirement from Agape, Howard turned more of his attention to his lifelong recreation of gardening. Now in his mid 90's, he still plants and cultivates his tomatoes, beans, squash, and other vegetables, taking them home along with some chrysanthemums for his wife, Zona, and giving many of them to neighbors and friends.
Another of Howard's long-term interests is collecting rocks. He has explored eroded hillsides and stream beds in many states, and has built a collection that includes a wide variety of rocks and minerals from all around the world. He has used his tumbler to polish many of them, and there are bowls and trays of beautiful rocks all around the house.
Howard in his garden, and with some of his tomatoes
Photos by Jim Justiss
Howard has always been a student of the Bible. A life-long member of the Church of Christ, and a former elder of his congregation in Nashville, he has participated in and taught Bible classes on many subjects. As a result of his studies, often pondered while working in the garden, his views on a number of subjects have changed over the years, particularly in the area of Biblical prophecy. On the other hand, many of his long-held beliefs, including his opposition to war, have been strengthened. His paper "One Family In America's Wars" presents his objections to warfare in the perspective of the roles some of his ancestors and other family members have played in different wars.
In the early 1990's, Zona and Howard both compiled some of their memoirs into books, primarily as a way to tell their grandchildren about their heritage. Zona's book, Thistles Cut, Ironing Done, is out of print, but is available on the Internet. Howard's book, Roots Deep In Texas, is not yet on-line, but is still available in print. More about Howard's ancestry and other members of his family is on-line at the Justiss clan web site.
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