Miami’s First Black City Manager Dies


Howard Gary, prominent bond dealer and Miami’s first black city manager, died due to complications from cancer Feb. 15. He was 62.

Gary was elected city manager in 1981 by the Miami City Commission and was instrumental in creating Miami’s modern downtown.

“Howard was one of the finest public administrators in Miami’s history. He was a consummate manager,” attorney George Knox told the Miami Herald. “Under his stewardship, Miami implemented affirmative action measures that made the city’s power structure more reflective of its Hispanic and black population.”

Knox, a longtime friend of Gary, served as Miami’s city attorney during Gary’s tenure.

Despite this major achievements, Gary’s term was surrounded by controversy, ending in his termination after only four years of service. His reputation was further tarnished after becoming involved in a local government corruption scandal. While in the private sector, he was reportedly caught on tape helping Miller Dawkins, then Miami City commissioner, launder a $25,000 kickback. Gary was never charged in the matter.

After his departure from public service, Gary started an investment firm, Howard Gary & Co. (No. 7 on the B.E. Investment Banks list in 1994). The company made headlines after completing a $431.7 million bond transaction with partner Smith Barney Shearson Inc., one of the nation’s largest bond deals at the time.

“My company was permitted to demonstrate, on behalf of other minority firms, that we can successfully cooperate in bond transactions, if given the opportunity,” Gary told Black Enterprise magazine at the time.

Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said he hopes Gary would be remembered for his achievements, not his pitfalls.
”Howard may have fallen from grace for a period, but he also was a pioneer in his own right,” Sarnoff told the Miami Herald. ”I hope people remember him for his pioneering ways rather than any of his misdeeds.”