Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Hubbard, Orville

From poor farming roots, Orville Hubbard developed a political formula that would see him reelected as mayor of Dearborn, Michigan 15 times. Born on April 2, 1903, he was raised in Union City, Michigan. At the age of 16, following his father’s death, Hubbard moved to Detroit to find employment, eventually moving permanently to the Detroit area.

He worked numerous jobs before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. Afterward he received a degree from the Detroit College of Law. Hubbard went on to serve as an assistant Michigan Attorney General before establishing his own private practice. After nine unsuccessful attempts at gaining office, Orville Hubbard was elected Mayor of Dearborn in 1942, a post he held for 36 years. Becoming known as the “Dictator of Dearborn,” he would win subsequent elections with increasing margins, regularly winning with more than 70% of the vote.

During his time as mayor, Hubbard made use of the large tax base provided by Ford Motor Company being based in Dearborn to offer a robust number of social services to Dearborn residents. A Michigan historical marker near City Hall credits him for Dearborn’s punctual trash collection and speedy snow removal. In addition, Hubbard engineered the purchase of Camp Dearborn, a 626-acre recreational area in Oakland County, as well as an 88-unit retirement facility in Clearwater, Florida. This retirement facility was sold in 2002 in order to help the city avoid a budget deficit. He often worked 12-hour days on his modest salary. While he was dedicated to providing help to those that support him, to those he saw as opponents he could be obstinate. Defying a court order to stay in Dearborn after being levied a fine for libeling a political foe; Hubbard fled to Windsor, Ontario and set up a government-in-exile. He was also photographed stomping on a subpoena at a city council meeting in 1959. 

Hubbard was perhaps more well-known nationally for his views on segregation and non-White people. He gained a national reputation as a racist when he told the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser on March 26, 1956, that he was “for complete segregation, one million percent.” His political career was filled with similar incidents. A longstanding facet of his administration, the “Keep Dearborn Clean” initiative, was widely understood to mean keep Dearborn White; a view supported by Hubbard doing little to disavow this opinion. He also argued against the building of a low-income housing complex in Dearborn, believing it would turn into a “Black slum.” In other interviews Hubbard elaborated on his segregationist beliefs, believing race mixing could lead to a mongrel race. During the 1967 Detroit Uprising he ordered police to shoot any rioters on sight. Such views were not reserved just for Black people however, as Hubbard had been known to make anti-Semitic comments about the Jewish presence in the country as well as complaining about Middle Easterners moving into Dearborn. In 1965 he was indicted under a Federal civil rights statute for allowing Dearborn police to stand by as a resident’s home was stoned by other residents. The belief was that the owner of the home had sold his home to a Black family. In the end Hubbard was acquitted by the jury.

Following a stroke in 1974, he served out his 15th term in a wheelchair. He died in 1982. 



Calendar of events for Ford Centennial, listing Orville Hubbard as Honorary Chairman, 1963 - 2013.048.017

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