On this day in 1965: Feds seek Dearborn mayor after racist mob attack

    Postcard of Ford plant, Dearborn | Wikimedia Commons

    U.S. marshals sought to arrest segregationist Dearborn Mayor Orville Hubbard on this day in 1965 for failing to show up for an arraignment.

    The charge: Hubbard, who was white, withheld police protection in a racial incident, according to the feds. The incident occurred on Labor Day 1963 after a mob was enraged by false rumors that a white property owner had rented an apartment in his Dearborn home to Blacks.  

    Rocks and debris were thrown at the apartment building, according to a Detroit Free Press story published that year.

    In January 1965, Hubbard was charged by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for posting anti-Black messaging on a City Hall bulletin board. Only 15 of Dearborn’s 112,007 residents were African-American in 1960, according to U.S. Census records.

    Orville Hubbard | Wikimedia Commons

    Now 54 years later, Dearborn is in the news for its history with anti-Semitism. Current Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. quashed an article in the Dearborn Historical Museum’s publication on native son Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism and reportedly fired Editor Bill McGraw. O’Reilly has received considerable blowback and the story has gone national.

    Back in June 1965, Hubbard was found innocent of the federal charge against him.

    “Goddammit. I don’t hate niggers,” Hubbard told the New York Times in 1968. “Christ, I don’t even dislike them. But if whites don’t want to live with niggers, they sure as hell don’t have to. Dammit, this is a free country. This is America.”

    He added: “I favor segregation. Because, if you favor integration, you first have kids going to school together, then the next thing you know, they’re grab-assing around, then they’re getting married and having half-breed kids. Then you wind up with a mongrel race. And from what I know of history, that’s the end of civilization.”

    Henry Ford

    Hubbard’s views made Dearborn “a symbol of the deep-seated racism of the North,” the Times wroteHe served as Dearborn mayor for 36 years and died in 1982 at age 79.

    A sculpture of the former mayor was dismantled in 2015 due to his segregationist status. It reemerged in 2017 on the lawn of the Dearborn Historical Museum for what would have been Hubbard’s 114th birthday.

    In an interesting twist, the reporter who wrote the Detroit Free Press story on that was none other than Bill McGraw.

    Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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