Full Steam Ahead

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(This is an excerpt from the book Howard W. Hunter: Man of Thought and Independence, Prophet of God.)

While law school was the main focus of the Hunter family until 1940, other aspects of their lives had not lain dormant. On May 4, 1936, Claire had given birth to their second son, who was given the name John Jacob Hunter, in recognition of four generations of Hunters who had borne the name John, as well as Claire’s father, Jacob Jeffs. The birth of this child did much to assuage the grief caused by the death of Billy two years earlier. Claire especially was comforted by the arrival of baby John, who filled the void created when her first child was taken.

John’s arrival sparked a decision his parents had been mulling for some time. They had been living in the Jeffs’ home for several years. With the baby expected and Howard’s job with the city secure, they had decided to purchase a home. They found a suitable five-room house in Alhambra. Priced at $3600, they acquired it for $500 down and interest payments of $15 a month with the balance payable in three years. It was located in the Alhambra Ward of the Pasadena Stake. The immediate family of Howard and Claire Hunter was completed on June 29, 1938, when Richard Allen Hunter was born.

When the Hunters first moved into their new home, Howard was heavily occupied with his city job and classes at law school; as a result, his and Claire’s social life was practically nil. Because of Howard’s responsibilities, his understanding bishop deliberately refrained from giving him Church responsibilities. This situation changed following Howard’s graduation from law school. To celebrate, he and Claire left the boys with his parents and drove to San Francisco. There they attended the World’s Fair and spent time visiting his ninety-year-old grandfather. A little later, after Howard had passed the bar exam, he was called as the instructor of the junior genealogy class and Claire was called as a teacher in the junior Sunday School.

It was a happy, comparatively relaxing time for them. The grinding discipline of night school and seemingly endless study and class preparations were behind them. Howard’s employment with the city and his growing practice provided more than adequate means for their livelihood. Indeed, they had begun to look around for a larger home which would better serve their needs. However, a bombshell exploded in the midst of this scene of domestic tranquility. It occurred on August 27, 1940. At a meeting with Bertrum M. Jones, president of the Pasadena Stake, Howard was called as the bishop of the new El Sereno Ward, to be created by dividing the Alhambra Ward.

Howard was dumbfounded. He had heard no rumors about the division. He was amazed that someone as young as his thirty-two years would be called to a position which, in his experience, had always been filled by much older men. To that date, Howard was the youngest man called as a bishop in Southern California. In retrospect it is easy to see why the stake presidency had nominated him. Earlier he had served in the stake as a Scout leader, and it was known he was an Eagle Scout. His successful struggles to obtain an education and to be admitted to the bar were also known by the stake and ward leaders. And of course his bright, friendly personality was well-known in the area, as also his successful roles as a husband and father. He seemed to be tailor-made for the job.

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