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Howell Begle

  • Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
  • Birthday: January 04
Date of passing: 
December 30, 2018

Obituary

Obituary: 

Howell Begle was an American lawyer.

Begle received a bachelor’s degree in 1965 from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, before receiving a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1968. He became a successful corporate lawyer with a specialty in media mergers, newspaper acquisitions, and other areas of media law.

Howell Begle was an American lawyer.

Begle received a bachelor’s degree in 1965 from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, before receiving a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1968. He became a successful corporate lawyer with a specialty in media mergers, newspaper acquisitions, and other areas of media law.

A lifelong fan of R&B music, Begle was introduced to singer Ruth Brown after one of her concerts in the early 1980s. Brown told Begle that she had not received any royalties in decades from her former label, Atlantic Records. Like most artists of her generation, Brown had signed contracts with very low royalty rates. Many blues and R&B artists were further exploited through shoddy bookkeeping and questionable business practices. Excessive expenses were often charged against artists’ accounts, leaving them indebted to their labels and therefore ineligible for royalties.

As a seasoned Washington insider, Begle was able to pressure Atlantic and its parent company, Warner Communications. In 1988, Atlantic Records announced that it would waive the unrecouped debts and recalculate royalties for Brown and others of its R&B artists. Brown received her first royalty payment in 28 years, for about $20,000.

Beginning that year, Atlantic paid more than $1 million in back royalties to 35 acts, raised royalty payments going forward, and eliminated many debts assigned to performers. Many other record companies followed suit.

A donation from Atlantic of nearly $2 million helped create the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, which gives grants to artists in need. Begle was its first executive director.

Besides Brown, Begle did work on behalf of acts including Big Joe Turner, the Drifters, the Coasters, the Clovers, and Sam & Dave.

In recent years he practiced law as president of Howell Begle and Associates, based at his home in Boston, where he moved after living in Washington for several decades. He handled film clip clearances and other legal issues for the Kennedy Center Honors and American Film Institute tributes, among many other awards shows.

Begle died December 30, 2018, in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He was 74.

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