Portrait courtesy of the Houston Area Digital Archives website.
This dapper looking gent is one Oliphant Lockwood Hubbard, who, during a long life that extended nearly nine decades, rose to become a leading public figure in Independence Heights, Texas, a city which can justly lay claim to being the "first African American municipality in Texas." A principal and teacher at the Independence Heights School, Hubbard was elected as the second mayor of that city in 1919 and would serve two terms in that post.
Born on June 3, 1880 in Walker County, Texas, Oliphant L. Hubbard was one of fourteen children born to Lewis and Victoria Smith Hubbard. Following the completion of his high school education, Hubbard enrolled at the Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, graduating in the class of 1909. Having attained his "teacher's certificate in primary education" Hubbard married to Ms. Ella Kyle shortly after his graduation, and the couple would have four children, including Garland F. (1914-1988) and Vivian Hubbard Seals (1917-2008).
The early 1910s saw both Hubbard and his wife teaching in a number of rural communities in East Texas. Due to "depressed conditions and low pay"the couple left that area and by 1911 had settled in Independence Heights, then a young satellite community of Houston that consisted of predominantly African-American families. In that year Hubbard took on the position of "first teacher and principal" of the Independence Heights School, and in January 1915 saw Independence Heights become an incorporated city of several hundred residents.
Four years after the city's incorporation Hubbard ran for and was elected as Mayor of Independence Heights, becoming the second man to occupy that post. After taking the oath as Mayor on June 19th, 1919 he gave a brief address which was highlighted in the Houston Informer several days afterward. In this address, Hubbard made note that:
"I have, with the majority of our citizenship, undergone some very unpleasant hardships to dislodge those who had taken charge of our city's affairs by willfully breaking the statutes of Texas, and usurpation, but as I take office I realize I am as much their servant as I am my staunchest supporters.... So let us all try and build up a city that every person who lives here or may come will feel proud of it."
Hubbard would serve two terms in office (1919-1923) and during his tenure, a number of civic improvements were made to the burgeoning city, including wood planked sidewalks, "water and sewage service", "limited public transportation" electric lighting and phone service and "shelled streets." Despite these various advances, Hubbard's time as mayor didn't always go smoothly. The Houston Ku Klux Klan would make their presence known in Independence Heights on more than one occasion and even threatened Hubbard and his family. Due to these threats, Hubbard would sometimes utilize a loaded 30-30 shotgun to persuade unwanted visitors to think otherwise when it came to intimidation!
While his service as Mayor remains an important part of Hubbard's life story, his life after leaving office is also of note. He would deal in real estate and insurance beginning in the early 1920s and later removed with his family to Tyler, Texas, where he aided other black families in proving " they had clear title to land so that they could sell oil leases." O.L. Hubbard would remove back to Houston sometime in the early 1960s, dying there on February 12, 1968, a few months before his 88th birthday. He was later interred at the Golden Gate Cemetery in Houston.