Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Hubbard, Orville

From poor farming roots, Orville Hubbard developed a political formula that proved successful in one of the region’s premier communities. 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 United States Marine Corps. Afterward he received a degree from the Detroit College of Law and enthusiastically entered politics. After nine unsuccessful attempts at gaining office, Orville Hubbard was elected Mayor of Dearborn in 1942, a post he held for 36 years. Dearborn voters appreciated his leadership enough to give him landslide victories in his last 14 mayoral contests; in 1967 he won with an astonishing 87% of the vote.

Dearborn claimed to provide the “world’s best public service” under Hubbard. Many residents told stories about his personal involvement in solving problems, and a Michigan historical marker near City Hall credits him for Dearborn’s punctual trash collection and speedy snow removal. In addition, Hubbard was recognized as an innovative administrator who 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.

Hubbard often worked 12-hour days on his modest salary. Even his enemies conceded that although he craved political power, at least he never tried to enrich himself through his office. “By political standards, the man was a saint,” Doyne Jackson, longtime city publicist, told the Dearborn Press on Jan. 6, 1977.

Hubbard 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.” He further embarrassed some Dearborn residents in 1965 when the Michigan Civil Rights Commission got a court order to stop him from displaying racially oriented articles. At the same time he was tried, and eventually acquitted, in federal court for conspiracy to violate human rights in a racially-motivated instance of mob vandalism and violence.

Following a stroke in 1974, he served out his fifteenth term in a wheelchair. He died in 1982. He and his wife had four sons and a daughter.

 


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