George Russell Howerton was born October 28, 1905 in Milton, Kentucky, to Sara (Sallie) Sutton and David Ham Howerton, a Baptist minister and teacher. Howerton's teaching career at Northwestern University began in 1939 when he was appointed Director of Choral Activities. After John Walter Beattie retired in 1951, he was named Dean of the School of Music.
George Howerton was musically active from a young age, teaching piano and studying organ as a high school freshman near the family's home in Springfield, Missouri. After graduating from high school he studied at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. Howerton received a bachelor's degree in 1926, majoring in English literature and minoring in French because his father considered music a “fancy” vocation. Howerton went on to earn his master's degree at Columbia University Teachers College in 1940, and his doctoral degree at Northwestern University in 1950 while teaching at Northwestern's School of Music. Additionally, Howerton attended the University of Southern California, New York University, and Harvard University, and he studied organ with Marcel Dupré in Paris. His career as church organist and choir director for congregations in metropolitan Chicago in the 20s and 30s paid for his college tuition.
Howerton's teaching career at Northwestern University began in 1939 when he was appointed Director of Choral Activities. After John Walter Beattie retired in 1951, he was named Dean of the School of Music. Soon after his appointment, Howerton was given the task of managing a $4 million bequest from the estate of philanthropists Louis and Elsie Eckstein. The new Dean placed special emphasis on expanding the School's music education program, and on bringing new and distinguished artists from all over the world to the School of Music faculty. Howerton also bolstered the Music Library's holdings of books and manuscripts, and inaugurated the School's first opera workshop. Soon after his retirement in 1971, Howerton and his wife A'Louise moved to Salida, Colorado, where Howerton had once conducted at a festival. Here, Howerton continued to support the Salida-Aspen Music Festivals through occasional conducting and by writing program notes. The 1994 festivals were dedicated in his honor for his “guidance and creative leadership in bringing 18 years of outstanding musical programs to [the] Upper Arkansas Valley Communities.” (See Box 1, Folder 5)
In the course of his life, Howerton was a Vice-Chairman for the Ravinia Festival Association (Illinois); a governing member for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association; a member of the Educational Committee for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and of the Board of Regents for the National Music Honor Society (National President from 1960 to 1966); served on the Metropolitan Opera National Council; was the National Co-Chairman of the Central Opera Service of the Metropolitan Opera National Council; and received a Steinway Award in 1967 for his contributions to the music community.
Howerton published a number of articles on trends in the choral community for Etude Magazine, as well as other periodicals. He also published a textbook, Technique and Style in Choral Singing, in 1959 and co-authored the books Fundamentals of Music Theory with Traugott Rohner in 1948 and Literature as a Fine Art with Donald J. McGinn in 1959. The latter book reflected Howerton's longtime interest in the relationship between music and other arts, especially painting, architecture, and literature.
Howerton married A'Louise Trester on September 4, 1940. They had no children. Howerton died on April 8, 1999 at the Columbus Manor Nursing Home in Salida, Colorado, where he had resided for two years prior to his death.