Leon Howell, an author and essayist who was the last editor of the influential liberal-tilting journal Christianity and Crisis, has died. He was 73.
Howell died Feb. 26 at his home in Silver Spring, Md. He had suffered for years from a viral spinal infection that was never fully diagnosed.
Christianity and Crisis, founded in 1941 by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was a leading critic of the Vietnam War. Howell began contributing to the publication during that time and was its editor from 1985 until it folded in 1993.
He told the New York Times that it was the high cost of postage and health insurance more than any theological dispute that prompted the publication's closing.
In retirement, Howell helped organize an annual weeklong seminar at the Ghost Ranch conference center in New Mexico called "Discerning the Signs of the Times," named after an anthology of Niebuhr's sermons.
Howell's books included "Freedom City: The Substance of Things Hoped For" (1969), about the struggle for black tenant farmers in Mississippi to start their own community, and "Asia, Oil Politics and the Energy Crisis" (1974), written with Michael Morrow.
Francis Leon Howell was a native of Copperhill, Tenn., and a 1957 graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina. After Army service in South Korea, where he was an editor for the newspaper Stars and Stripes, he returned home after hitchhiking through Asia and the Middle East.
In the 1960s, he graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York and became the New York-based communications secretary for the University Christian Movement, an effort to create an interdenominational association of campus ministries nationwide.
He spent four years as a freelance reporter in Singapore before settling in the Washington area in 1975. He was a board member and secretary of International Relief and Development, a nongovernmental aid organization based in Arlington County, Va.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara Smith Howell, of Silver Spring; two daughters, Marya Kniple of Baltimore and Leah Moga of Silver Spring; a sister; a brother; and three grandchildren.
Bernstein is a staff writer for the Washington Post.