Howard Hadley was born at home on September 3, 1923, the second son of Nathan and Velma Hadley of Yoknapatawpha County. His father was a railroad foreman, supervising a line crew, and his mother was a housewife.
As a child, Howard went fishing or hunting as often as he could with his older brother. When Howard was 16, his brother died in a farming accident. Howard dropped out of school and took his brother's job, working full time in the fields.
Most Friday nights would find him wrestling other men for money, and those who bet on Howard usually won. When he couldn't get a match, he'd pick a fight just for fun. He had numerous brushes with the law, being arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct and assault on several occasions in 1940 and 1941.
He landed a warehouse job at the Bowlan Glove Factory in October of 1940.
He joined the army in July of 1941 and served in Europe for 18 months, but he still had difficulty with authority and narrowly escaped a dishonorable discharge. He received a general discharge in February 1943 and returned to Oxford, where he went back to his job at Bowlan Glove.
Nathan Hadley died in May of 1943, and Howard moved back home to support his mother. After her death in 1949, he began courting Merrilyn Kent, and they were married on May 10, 1951 — her 27th birthday.
The Hadley marriage was known to be an unhappy one as Howard continued drinking, gambling, wrestling for money, and brawling. In 1953, he reportedly established a relationship with a local woman, Beatrice Carmichael, which lasted for some years.
Howard's excesses continually strained the Hadleys' finances. While Howard kept his job at Bowlan Glove, the main support for the family came from what money Merrilyn made by taking in laundry and ironing.
Howard's record of arrests continued, including several calls to his home for domestic battery in 1953 and 1955. Merrilyn Hadley was pregnant with her first child in 1955 at the time of the last known assault. She died from complications following the birth of her daughter, Doris, on July 18, 1955.
Following the death of his wife and birth of his daughter, Howard was described as overwhelmed with guilt, grief, and regret. For several years, he appears to have made an effort to curb his excesses and provide for his daughter.
Apparently, the financial strain and caring for an infant became too much for Howard, and he reverted to his prior lifestyle. He arranged for a neighboring family, the Otts, to care for Doris while he worked and most weekends.
After he was laid off from Bowlan Glove, Howard had trouble getting and holding a good job in Yoknapatawpha County. In September of 1958, he left Oxford to look for work at one of the unionized factories he'd heard about up North.
He rented his house and property to a Bowlan Glove co-worker, Elbert Warren, and left his daughter in the care of Beatrice Carmichael. According to Miss Carmichael, he eventually found a job, and his daughter went to live with him.
The rest of his history is unknown.