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Byrd Granger (Howell)

Death: June 27, 1991 (78)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Frank Scott Howell and Private

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Byrd Granger

Byrd Howell was born to engineer Frank Scott Howell and musician Evelyn Byrd Howell on October 18, 1912 in New Rochelle, NY. The exact origin of her acquired last name is unknown; it is known only that Byrd Howell Granger became her legal name in 1940. By Granger's own account, she was married at one time although to whom and for what period of time is not known. Granger had at least two siblings, Laura Howell Dale (b. 1909) and Frank S. Howell (vital dates unknown).

Byrd Howell Granger's achievements were not only numerous but also quite varied. Though she is perhaps best known for her work as a Southwestern Folklore author and researcher, Granger had found success in several other endeavors before entertaining the idea of a career in scholarly Folklore. In 1934, she received her B.A. in Zoology from Goucher College. She went on to become the Assistant Director of the Advisory Committee for the New York World's Fair from 1937-1940. Almost immediately after this experience, she opened her own public relations firm, Byrd Howell Associates, in New York City. She remained at the firm until 1942 when Granger elected to join the war effort by serving in the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) Squadron. One of the first women to complete cadet flight training, she ultimately became a commanding officer in the Air Transport Command which was responsible for ferrying everything from trainers to bombers to locations throughout the United States.

After the war, Granger attempted to return to her public relations firm only to find that the effects of a ground injury sustained during her WASP service made East Coast winters almost unbearable. It was then that she had thoughts of moving West. After spending some time writing aviation training manuals and articles, Granger finally decided to return to a town she had admired briefly after making an emergency landing there during the war: Tucson, Arizona. She eased into her adopted home by securing a position as Director of Public Relations for the Tucson United Community Campaign. It was during her last year at this agency that she was serendipitously introduced to the notion of a career in English and Folklore. A friend asked Granger if she would be willing to substitute teach an English class at the University of Arizona. Granger agreed and immediately discovered a passion for teaching. Having been a writer both professionally and vocationally, she decided to take a position as an English instructor at the University and went on to receive her M.A. in English from the same institution in 1953.

After receiving her degree, she was identified by the English faculty as an excellent candidate for the considerable task of revising and enlarging Will C. Barnes' 1935 Arizona Place Names. In meeting this challenge, Granger flew, drove, and trekked throughout Arizona, visiting and corresponding with hundreds of people. Arizona Place Names was finally published in 1960. Granger quickly developed a fascination with onomastics (the study of place names) and thus her interest in Folklore was born. By 1962, she had earned her Ph.D. in English from UCLA under the guidance of Folklorist Wayland D. Hand (dissertation title: The Talk of the Place: Folk History of the Place Names and Legends of Places in Arizona, May 1962, 590 pp).

Granger continued as an assistant and, ultimately, a full professor of English and Folklore until her retirement in 1976. In addition to her regular teaching duties, Granger developed the Folklore and Cultural Awareness program, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1968 to 1972. This summer seminar series was designed to give Junior High School teachers a better understanding of the cultural needs of their students and to help integrate folklore and cultural issues into classroom learning. During her tenure Granger was also active in several Folklore societies, including the American Name Society for which she served as President in 1974. Honors were frequently bestowed on this popular teacher and speaker having been thrice chosen as Best Professor on campus and inducted into the University of Arizona Hall of Fame.

Granger's talents and services were not limited to the University campus. She served in many civic organizations including the 99s (a women pilots group), the Cerebral Palsy Foundation of Southern Arizona, Tucson United Community Campaign (United Way), and the Tucson Historical Council/Committee.

Somewhere in the middle of this professional and civic involvement, Granger also pursued her leisure interests which included photography, fishing, and camping. She even found time to build her own home in Tucson doing much of the work herself.

Retirement to Carefree, Arizona did not put an end to Granger's professional productivity. In 1983, she published Arizona's Names: X Marks the Place, a revision of the 1960 Place Names book. Just before her death in 1991, she published a history of the WASP entitled On Final Approach. Earlier in her retirement, she also wrote "Evidences of Military Service of Women Air Force Service Pilots of World War II;" a document which played a role in earning the WASP recognition as military veterans. Retirement also afforded Granger the opportunity to visit the many countries whose culture and lore she had been teaching in the classroom. Her travels took her to such places as Denmark, Greece, Guatemala, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to name only a few.

Byrd Howell Granger died June 27, 1991 in her Carefree home. Though she is remembered for many reasons, her most enduring and documented legacy will be her contribution to the understanding and appreciation of the folklore of all peoples. She was particularly influential in bringing the culture, stories, and lore of Southwestern Native Americans to the collective consciousness of Arizona historians. Her initial revision of Arizona Place Names reminded those concerned with the Southwest United States that its history lies also in the folklore of those people who were here long before the Anglo settlers.

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Byrd Granger's Timeline

October 12, 1912
June 27, 1991
Age 78