Former Chapel Hill Mayor Jonathan Howes has died.

The 78-year-old Howes passed away on Sunday morning, according to a statement from his family.

Howes and his wife Mary were married in August of 1959 and moved to Chapel Hill, where Howes earned a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from UNC.

Howes was elected mayor for the first time in 1987, serving two terms through 1991. Prior to being elected mayor, Howes was a member of the town council for more than a decade.

Dave Godschalk, professor emeritus of city and regional planning at UNC, shared memories with WCHL’s Elizabeth Friend. Listen to their conversation below:


Former UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin, who served in that role from 1988 to 1995, spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about his admiration for Howes, and his work toward strengthening town-gown relations.


Chapel Hill Town Council Member Ed Harrison posted this on Facebook, Sunday evening:

Very sad to hear that Jonathan Howes passed away suddenly on Sunday morning. Many condolences to his wife Mary, his son Bo Howes, and all of his family. Jonathan was the first Mayor I had when moved to Chapel Hill 25 years ago, and he did much to make my neighbors and me comfortable in coming in from Durham County to say our piece. He was already my main guide on regional planning policies, and had already made me feel welcome in discussions at regional tables. Jonathan was the only DENR Secretary I could ever call at home, and I was always grateful he’d talk about what mattered to us. The North Carolina Botanical Garden benefited greatly for many decades from Jonathan’s leadership of the BG Foundation, and from his 4-plus months of steadying leadership as Interim Director earlier this year. Along with many others, I was looking forward to more conversations with him.

Congressman David Price released the following statement regarding the passing of Howes:

It was with great shock and sorrow that my wife, Lisa, and I learned of Jonathan Howes’s death last Sunday morning. Jon and his wife, Mary, have been friends of ours for over 40 years, and compatriots in many endeavors.

Jon was the epitome of a public servant. We know first-hand of his accomplishments as Mayor of Chapel Hill, for Lisa worked as his assistant during those years. He served North Carolina for five years as Secretary of the Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources. He directed the University of North Carolina’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies and later co-chaired development of the Campus Master Plan. He led nationally through the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Association of Regional Councils.

Through these decades of service to campus, community, state, and nation, Jon displayed a remarkable capacity to inspire and persuade, to collaborate and build consensus, and to give generously of himself. Chapel Hill recently recognized him as a Town Treasure, an apt designation for how many of us feel about Jon and our association with him.

Howes was also an employee at UNC for nearly four decades before retiring from his post as special assistant to the chancellor for community affairs in 2010.

Howes is survived by his wife of 55 years, Mary, their three children, and eight grandchildren.

You can read more on Howes here.

No further details are available at this time.