Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oliphant Lockwood Hubbard (1880-1968)

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 that 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 several 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 moved 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.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sheadrick Bond Turner (1869-1927)

Portrait from the Illinois Blue Book, 1921-22 edition.

    A six-term member of the Illinois State House of Representatives, Sheadrick Bond Turner was a native of Louisiana prior to his removal to the "Land of Lincoln" in the mid-1880s. Born and raised in the parish of West Feliciana, Turner's birth occurred on July 12, 1869, being the son of Hector and Souvenis Turner. While the origins of his name remain undetermined, it can be surmised that he was named in honor of Shadrach Bond (1773-1832), a former Congressman and the first Governor of the state of Illinois.
   Little could be found on Sheadrick Turner's early life in Louisiana, and by 1885 he is recorded as being a resident of Springfield, Illinois. A resident of that city from 1885-99, Turner entered into the world of publishing during his residency there, becoming the proprietor of two newspapers,  The State Capital and Illinois Idea. A graduate of the Illinois College of Law, Turner would later move to Chicago, where he would continue to publish his newspapers as well as practice law. 
    Through the succeeding years, Turner's newspapers gained a reputation as being the "leading weekly publication in Illinois and the Northwest for the moral, economic and industrial benefits for the negro race." Turner's stewardship of these papers is mentioned as being a launching pad for his political career and in November 1914 he won election as a Republican to the Illinois State House of Representatives, defeating Progressive candidate John H. Taylor by a vote of 6, 659 to 2,726.
   Following his freshman term in the legislature (1915-17) Turner wasn't a candidate for reelection. In 1918  he re-entered political life and won a second term in the house, besting Socialist Party nominee C.W. Howorth by a vote of  5, 978 to 305. Turner would be returned to the legislature on four more occasions and during his first two terms was a member of the judiciary committee and is mentioned as having "introduced legislation to discourage the organization of the Ku Klux Klan", as well as having sponsored "an appropriation bill to provide $35,00 for the investigation of bomb-throwing." 
  In addition to the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, Turner gained wide press in 1919 as a leading foe of a "Race Commission Bill", then up for a vote in the 51st session of the assembly.  In its August 30, 1919 edition, the Salt Lake City Broad Ax reported that Turner "strenuously opposed" the bill and was "instrumental in conducting a successful campaign" that saw the bill go down to defeat. As Turner himself stated in the Broad Ax,
"There are no commissions for the Poles. Serbians, Croatians, or any of the other nationalities that dwells underneath the Stars and Stripes and why therefore should there be one for the Negro, when even handed justice and fair play is the one and only solution for the racial troubles of out country."
                                                    Sheadrick B. Turner, from the 1927-29 Illinois Blue Book.

  On November 2, 1926, Sheadrick Turner was elected to his sixth term in the assembly, garnering 11, 411 votes. He would not live to complete this term, as he died in office on September 30, 1927, at age 58.  Shortly after his passing the Illinois legislature honored Turner by adopting a "resolution of tribute" in his memory and adjourned the day's session. Turner was survived by his wife of over twenty years, Maria Cooper. A burial location for both Turner and his wife is unknown at this time.

A Turner memorial notice from the California Eagle, February 3, 1928.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Genoa Sebastian Washington (1897-1972)

Portrait from the Illinois Blue Book, 1967-68.

   Noted as being a "champion of civil rights laws and women's legislation", Genoa Sebastian Washington was a leading legal figure in Chicago, Illinois, serving as a vice president of the Cook County Bar Association. Active in politics as well as law, Washington twice served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention and was a three-term member of the Illinois State House of Representatives from 1966-1972, dying in office in the last-named year.
   The son of the Rev. Virgil William Washington and the former Lucy Virginia Bonner, Genoa S. Washington was born in Washington D.C. on September 26, 1897. Virgil Washington was a minister and General Secretary in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and due to his father's church work "attended the primary and secondary schools wherever the work of his father carried him". A veteran of World War I, Genoa Washington had enlisted as a private and would be honorably discharged as a "captain of infantry" at the war's conclusion.
   Following his military service, Washington attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, graduating from that school in the 1920s with his B.S. degree. He would continue study at Northwestern Law School and in 1929 was admitted to the Illinois Bar. He would practice law in Cook County for many years afterward and also served as a past vice president of the Cook County Bar Association. In addition to practicing law, Washington attained high office in the Chicago branch of the NAACP, of which he served as president. A longstanding Mason, Washington served as a past master of the Richard E. Moore Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and is also remarked as having served on "the Imperial Council of the Mystic Shrine." In 1952 he served as an alternate delegate from Illinois to the Republican National Convention that nominated Dwight Eisenhower for the Presidency.
    In 1954 Washington made his first attempt at elective office when he announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois' 1st district. After winning the Republican primary in April Washington became the Republican candidate for the seat, squaring off against Democratic incumbent William L. Dawson. On election day 1954, it was Dawson who won out, besting Washington by a wide margin, 71, 472 votes to 23, 470.
   Genoa Washington achieved national prominence in September 1957 when he was selected by President Eisenhower to serve as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations 12th General Assembly. Washington represented the United States on a special political committee of the UN General Assembly and early in his tenure at the UN conferred with both Israel and the "delegations of Arab countries" regarding the latter's advocation of a strong resolution against Israel and its stance on Palestinian refugees. Washington would also host a banquet for UN delegates at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in December 1957, where he stated:
"These friends from a far have had too little opportunity to know colored Americans due to the lack of suitable contact. I believe that the American cause would be enhanced if these opportunities are increased."
Genoa Washington (center), from Jet Magazine, January 1958.

  In 1960 Genoa Washington was again a candidate for Congress from Illinois's 1st district. In a nearly identical repeat of the 1954 race, Washington won the Republican primary held in April of that year and in November again faced incumbent representative William Dawson. On November 8th it was Dawson who cruised to an easy victory, beating Washington by a 54,000 vote margin
   Four years following his defeat Washington journeyed to San Francisco as part of the Illinois delegation to the 1964 Republican National Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater for President. Washington's political fortunes changed in 1966 when he launched a candidacy for a seat in the Illinois State Assembly. Hoping to represent Cook County's 23rd district, he would win election to the state house in November of that year. His freshman term in the legislature saw him sit on the committees on Revenue, Industry and Labor Relations, and Registration and Regulation.
   Elected to his second term in the state house in 1968, Washington served on the House Committee on Education and the Judiciary during the 1968-70 term. He would win a third term in the legislature in November 1970 and in the March 1972 Republican primary defeated three other Republican candidates to once again become that party's assembly nominee from Cook County's 23rd district. Washington's death at age 75 on October 14, 1972 (just a few weeks prior to the election) curtailed his being elected to a fourth term in the assembly. A lifelong bachelor, Washington's burial location is unknown at this time, but it's presumed to be in Chicago, where he had resided and worked for nearly all his life.

Genoa Washington in 1963 during his time as imperial potentate of the Prince Hall Shriners.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Truly Hatchett (1881-1970)

 Truly Hatchett, from the Nov. 18. 1954 edition of "Jet" magazine.

  Lifelong Baltimore resident Truly Hatchett etched his name into the history books in November 1954 when he became one of two African-Americans to win election to the Maryland State House of Delegates, being the first of their race to be elected to that body. Over seventy years old at the time of his election, Hatchett represented the district of Baltimore for one term and in the twilight of his life was remarked as being "the oldest living real estate broker and insurance man" residing in the city of Baltimore.
   Born in Baltimore on June 17, 1881, Truly Hatchett was the son of James H. and Hannah Hatchett. He is recorded as having attended the public schools of Baltimore and for nearly all of his adult life worked as a real estate dealer and insurance broker. A longstanding member of the Elks Lodge, Hatchett was elected as the Exalted Ruler of the Monumental Elks Lodge of Baltimore in 1928. He would remain affiliated with the Elks Lodge until his death, and for several years served that organization's Grand Lodge as its  "regional director of education". Hatchett was also long active in the Y.M.C.A, holding the post of President of the Board of Managers of the Druid Hill Branch of the YMCA in the early 1950s.
   Prior to his election as a state delegate, Hatchett continued to deal in real estate and insurance. In the early 1950s, he was serving as a "senior claims examiner" in the Unemployment Compensation Division of Baltimore and in November 1954 won election as a Democrat to the Maryland House of Delegates from Baltimore's 4th district.

Truly Hatchett and his fellow legislators in April 1955, from the Baltimore Afro-American.

  Seated along with Hatchett was fellow Fourth District delegate Emory Ryan Cole (1893-1968), a veteran of WWI as well as a practicing lawyer. Taking their seats at the start of the 1955 session, Hatchett and Cole were highlighted in the 1955 edition of the Baltimore Afro-American, where they described their first few months of legislative service. Despite his history-making status in Maryland politics, Hatchett remained modest about his and Cole's groundbreaking tenure, noting that:
"At no time did the Assembly try to embarrass us. Our representatives made a fine impression on the two bodies."
    Hatchett's term of four years concluded in 1958, having been an unsuccessful candidate for reelection. For the remainder of his life, he and his wife Bertha played a prominent role in local civic affairs, and in 1969 the 88-year-old former legislator and his wife were taken from their Druid Block home to the Provident Hospital in Baltimore out of concerns for their health and well-being. As the Baltimore Afro-American relates,
"This good news is a great relief to their friends and neighbors who were much concerned that these two grand senior citizens were ill and alone, except for a half-blind dog...But thanks to their minister, the Rev, Vernon Dobson (Union Baptist) and their nieces in Philadelphia and their friend, Charles Parker, they'll get the tender loving care they need now."
 After many years of prominence in Baltimore's black community, Truly Hatchett died on April 1, 1970, two months short of his 89th birthday. A burial location for both he and his wife remains unknown at this time.

Truly Hatchett (on right) at the 1960 Elks Citizenship Banquet in Washington, D.C.