Charles Howard Barksdale, Jr
Known as "Howard," he only makes one physical appearance in the DWU, in "The Age of Cynicism." There, he reveals himself to be a loving father with a wry sense of humor, but also very moody and capable of being cold and controlling. He recoils from Jake's attempts to get to know him better and strongly hints to Helen that she ought to leave him.
Otherwise, he has only been spoken of, usually by Amy. She first refers to him in "The Tie That Chokes," describing his military career and revealing that he had hoped she would be born a male. She delves further into their volatile relationship in "None in the Family," "All But Forgotten," and "Memory Road." Amy feels that her father resented her, first for being born female, second for being the incentive for him to retire from the military and take over his family business. Being a Type A Go-getter (like Helen), he also could not relate to his cynical, mellower youngest daughter. Amy's sense of guilt and inferiority causes her to lash out at Helen in "Memory Road" when she finds out Helen, as a child, had hoped she (Amy) would be born female so she (Helen) could stay her father's favorite.
Not surprisingly, Helen's relationship with her father was much different from Amy's. In "None in the Family, Part One," Jake remarks that Helen and her father "did everything together." While relations between them were strained during Helen's hippie years, it's obvious in "The Age of Cynicism" that they regard each other with affection, even when they clash over values. Helen, however, starts to consider the down side of their relationship in "None in the Family, Part Two." She tells Amy and Rita: "We were close, but there was something about him I had to get away from," particularly his demanding, fickle nature, which is the reason she married someone like Jake. Helen realizes that although she admired her father and still does, his attempt to do it all led to his early death (1986) and failed to result in a truly close relationship with any of his daughters.
Rita doesn't express many thoughts about Howard, except to lament in "None in the Family, Part Two" that he saw her only as someone pretty and marriageable, and generally paid less attention to her than Helen or Amy.
Evelyn Barksdale, his wife, puts in the strongest defense on his behalf. While acknowledging that he could be "hard to take" and that he did treat Amy very badly from time to time, she also explains that Howard had a rough childhood and that he was comparatively very good to his daughters.
In a nutshell, Howard is something of an enigma. A successful businessman and commanding presence who drew respect from those around him. Deeply loved (even by Amy) but also resented and feared. Both like "Mad Dog" Morgendorffer and the anti-Mad Dog. And someone who has had far greater effect on his daughters' present lives than any of them realize.
"It takes a lot to keep a business afloat these days. Unless it's mine: I've got more work than I know what to do with. And don't think every Tom, Dick, and Hippie who thought he could dream his way through the last decade doesn't realize it." -- The Age of Cynicism