Howard commenced law practice in Brandon, Mississippi. He was a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1836; reporter of the supreme court of the State of Mississippi; unsuccessful Democratic candidate for election in 1840 to the Twenty-seventh Congress and editor of the Mississippian.
He moved to Texas during the Republic of Texas and Howard was appointed the first Attorney General of the State of Texas in 1846. He served in that role for only 6 months. He represented Texas's District 2 in the U.S. Congress from 1849 to 1853.
Appointed attorney to the Land Commission of California by President Franklin Pierce, Howard left Texas to move to California. He resigned after a few months to practice law in San Francisco. In 1856, he was appointed Adjutant General of California, following the resignation of William T. Sherman during the time of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance. His attempt to oppose the Committee by force failed. Afterward he moved to Sacramento in 1858. In 1861 he moved to Los Angeles, where he was the District Attorney of Los Angeles, California from 1864–68, and a superior court judge beginning in 1879. He served only one term, due to the ill health that also forced him to refuse a potential nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 162.
- Column (approx. 2,000 words) on Howard as major-general in charge of state efforts to crush vigilantes' control of San Francisco in 1856
- Volney Howard at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Volney Erskine Howard from the Handbook of Texas Online
|Texas Attorney General
John W. Harris
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 2nd congressional district
Peter H. Bell
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