Howard J. Cleland

July 5, 1918October 13, 2013

Howard Jonathan Cleland, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, went home to be with his Lord on October 13, 2013. He was 95 years old. Visitation will be held Tuesday, October 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church. A graveside service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, October 16, at Parkway Memorial Cemetery, followed by a memorial service at First Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m.Howard was born in Buffalo, Missouri, on July 5, 1918. He received a Bachelor of Science in English from Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield and a Master of Arts in school administration and psychology from Peabody College in Nashville. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate in law from Mississippi College and an Honorary Doctorate of Christian Ministries from Belhaven University. During World War II he served as lieutenant in the United States Navy in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of operation. In the Atlantic, his ship, the USS Humbolt, participated in the capture and return of the German U-boat, U-505. It was the only German U-boat seized intact during World War II. In the Pacific, he was involved in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. At Iwo Jima, he witnessed and recorded in his ship's log the raising of the United States flag on Mount Suribachi. After World War II his entire professional career was devoted to education administration. One of his greatest pleasures was his association with young people of all ages, and he took great pride in their achievements, both as students and later as graduates. He served as Bailey Junior High School's third principal from 1947 to 1955. When Murrah High School opened in 1955, he was selected as the school's first principal and served until 1961. During this time, Murrah excelled in both academics and athletics and was named by Time and Newsweek magazines as one of the top high schools in the nation. Later, Murrah's athletic field house was named in his honor. In 1961, he was named president of Belhaven University and served until 1978. Dr. Cleland strengthened Belhaven's commitment to academic excellence based on strong Christian principles. He also expanded its facilities, increased enrollment and broadened its number of degrees.For many years he organized and directed the Mississippi Youth Tour, which later became Belhaven College Teen Tour. This tour provided hundreds of teenagers the opportunity to travel throughout the United States. He served as an elder at both First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson. He was past-president of the Mississippi Association of Colleges, the Mississippi Foundation of Independent Colleges and the Mississippi Association of Private Colleges. He served on the board of directors of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and the Mississippi Economic Council and was a member of the Mississippi Congress of Parents and Teachers, Phi Delta Kappa, Delta Kappa Phi and the National Association of School Administrators. Dr. Cleland was also inducted into the Belhaven University Sports Hall of Fame. He had a love for art and gardening, painting countless landscapes and still life paintings in oil and growing beautiful roses and other colorful flowers for his family to enjoy. Dr. Cleland was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Floral Cleland; two sisters, Inez Rhea and Marie Wattles; brother, William Cleland; and daughter, Jane O'Mara. He is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Gustava Barksdale Cleland; three children, Beth Cleland Harper and her husband, Eddie, of DeBary, Florida, Dr. William Howard Cleland and his wife, Gyanne, of Brandon, and Charles David Cleland and his wife, Rebecca, of Madison. Howard was the proud grandfather of Charlie Harper and his wife, Charlotte; Stephen Harper and his wife, Kimberly; Cheryl Harper Poole and her husband, Cameron, Meredith Cleland Johnson and her husband, Chad; Drew Cleland and his wife, Kimberly; Kate O'Mara Chandler and her husband, Martin; Mandy Brownlee and her husband, Derrick; and Michelle Smith and her husband, Clayton. He was blessed with nine great-grandchildren. Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church or First Presbyterian Day School, 1390 North State Street, Jackson, Miss., 39202, or a memorial of your choice. Online guestbook



  • Memorial Service Wednesday, October 16, 2013
  • Visitation Tuesday, October 15, 2013
  • Graveside Service Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Howard J. Cleland

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Richard Rhea

December 7, 2013

Howard is my Uncle. He has been a source of inspiration all my life. I so appreciate his kind, winsome, Christlike, encouraging ways that seem to flow so naturally and sincerely from his heart. As a pastor, countless times I have been motivated to combine disciplined thinking with grace by Uncle Howard's example. "I thank my God upon every remembrance" of his life and faith.

Andrea Thompson

November 8, 2013

I am just hearing of Dr. Cleland's passing. He was my psychology instructor at Hinds (Rankin Campus) and my absolute favorite teacher of all time. It was such a pleasure to know him. He will certainly be missed!

October 27, 2013

I only recently learned of Dr. Cleland's passing through a fellow 1956 Murrah graduate. We students knew this very fine man as MR. Cleland in my three years at Bailey and in Murrah's first year. I was unaware of his WWII experience and educational achievements. He did come to our 1956 50th Murrah Reunion and still remembered many of us. Thanks for making our Bailey and Murrah school days memorable and excellent! My sympathies to his family.
Louis McCraw

Annie Steadham

October 21, 2013

What a pleasure to have known such a wonderful person, I was blessed. I can see Howard now just working with all the beautiful flowers in heaven with that wonderful smile on his face.

Ken Brown

October 21, 2013

My condolences to the family. I salute Lt. Howard Cleland for his service to our country during World War II.

I am the Webmaster of the USS Stokes (AKA-68), the naval ship he served aboard during the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasion.

Dick and Jennifer Hall

October 18, 2013

We were saddened to hear that Dr. Clelend had passed away while we were out of town. What a wonderful leader in the community. He set an example for others to follow. As a neighbor, I loved his beautiful roses and how he would describe each one. Our prayers and thoughts are with you during this time of sorrow. May God put His loving arms around you.

October 18, 2013

I also remember Mr. Cleland's tenure as President of Belhaven since I served as Professor of history during much of that time. Dr. Lamar Neal

October 17, 2013

Dr. Cleland's interactions with students during my years at Bailey Junior High and at Murrah High School were always positive and encouraging. He was a wonderful principal. I extend my deepest sympathies to his family at this time of loss. Martha Ann (Gooch) Hogrefe, Hattiesburg, MS

Alice Watson Crull

October 17, 2013

I well remember Mr. Cleland. He was a
model for us all.

October 16, 2013

God is near to those that are broken at heart and those crushed in spirit. God will sustain you and help you to endure.