William Buie: This begins an interview with William Buie and Bruce Hubbard in New York, New York. The date is July 21, 2016. Thank you for having me.
Bruce Hubbard: You're welcome.
WB: To begin with, can you tell me where and when you were born?
BH: Sure. I was born February 7, 1948, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
WB: Can you tell me something about your parents, starting with their names?
BH: Sure. My father is Robert McKinley Hubbard and my mother was Ruth Spratling Hubbard. My family on both sides was from Georgia. My family originated on my mother's side in an area that's known as Pine Mountain, Georgia, which is near Warms Springs, where President [Franklin] Roosevelt's retreat was for polio. It's all near Columbus, Georgia, where Fort Benning is. My grandmother was actually a Benning. She went to Spelman, I think in the Class of 1900, was a schoolteacher and taught K-12 in Pine Mountain before they moved to Chattanooga. I've traced my family back there probably until about 1800 and I had a great grandmother who was a slave, who I knew, who was born in 1859, died in 1961, 103. So, I actually knew her and spoke with her about the Civil War, slavery, the whole thing. My grandparents, my mother's parents, were born in 1882 and '84. She was the baby of eleven kids. So, that's why they're so much older. She actually was born the same day as her oldest sister's first child and they went through school as sisters, even though it was aunt and niece. My grandfather was a farmer and my grandmother was a teacher. They had a huge boll weevil epidemic in 1921. It killed all the cotton crop, and so, they were sharecropping and not making a lot of money and he had a lot of kids. So, he moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the last of those three children, including my mother, were born. On my father's side, they're from a place called Washington, Georgia. According to my grandfather, there's quite a story there, because he claims that his father, named July Hubbard, had been a slave and had gotten his forty acres and a mule and got in a conflict with a white man, oh, I guess around the turn of the century, about him stealing a pig from him. He shot him and killed him and they left Georgia that night and came to Tennessee; so, quite a history. My paternal grandfather worked for Combustion Engineering in Tennessee. On my father's side, when they moved, my father and his siblings were born there, my grandfather, who had been a farmer, came to Chattanooga.
I was a grown man when I figured out what my maternal grandfather did, because they would say, "Well, he worked for the ply foundry," and I sort of blew it off. Then, one day, I said, "Okay, sit down and explain to me what a ply foundry was." That was the vernacular in the South, in the '50s when I was growing up, for an International Harvester plow foundry, which made very good sense for a former farmer. In 1921, that was a great job, because he was a "straw boss," which is a black man who can only supervise other black men, but in an International Harvester plow foundry. They made plows throughout the South. So, that was a great job and he did that until he retired and I think he died in 1957. My grandmother died in 1968, but, anyway, they had a lot of kids. They all went off and moved all around the country. My parents grew up together. Every teacher that they had in grade school taught me. My father, after school, joined the Air Force and we moved around the country, after I was born, with him in the Air Force, living in Texas and Washington State, etc. He got out in New Jersey and I went to middle school and high school in New Jersey before I went to Rutgers. So, that's pretty much my family in a nutshell. We've had a lot of reunions and I've done a lot of research, because I'm an attorney. So, I'm pretty good about my family history and even into slavery and contacted the family that held my family in slavery and actually sired my great grandmother, because she was the slave master's child, which was fairly common back in those days. So, their name was Murrah and I said, "You mean Murray?" and they said, "No, Murrah." Apparently, being illiterate, as a lot of the immigrants who were white came to the United States [were], they alighted in the United States, being Scotch-Irish, in Fredericksburg and their real name was Murtagh, the Scotch-Irish M-U-R-T-A-G-H, but, since they couldn't spell, they perverted it to Murrah, M-U-R-R-A-H, and it's a common name. You'll see it go from Virginia through North Carolina, South Carolina. The oldest brother would keep the farm and the others would follow land grants. They went completely around the South, through Georgia, into Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and ended up in Oklahoma. It's funny, because I found a very old banker who, I guess in the '80s, when I was doing this, he was a white banker in San Antonio named Tom Murrah, which had been the name of my progenitor. He knew this story, because this guy had, from the time of the Civil War, all his kids with his black slave and none with his wife, but that was the same family. It's funny, because the federal judge who the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City that got blown up, his name was Murrah also, the same family. It was hilarious for me, being a lawyer, to realize that. [laughter] [Editor's Note: Anti-government terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used an explosives-filled truck to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people.]
WB: That is an incredible story.
BH: I know.
WB: Thank you for sharing that. You mentioned that you had talked to your great grandmother about her experiences as well.
WB: Is there anything that you still recall, that stands out?
BH: Well, I mean, let's see, she was born in 1859. She was the oldest of the six children that Tom Murrah had with his slave. Her mother was, I think, Jennie Sparks. She had six kids with him, and then, when she was freed, she married someone else. That was a conflict and an issue, because he lived until 1907 and, when he came back--I think he was a prisoner in Andersonville--and when he came back, his wife, who was sort of upset about what was going on, was gone. So, they lived in that area from the end of the Civil War until 1907, when he died. My great grandmother, Millie Murrah lived--I mean, her husband died in 1921 and she died in 1961. So, I mean, she actually had full faculties in the mid-'50s when I went there and I talked with her. She was standing there when the Civil War was going on. She was probably about six years old when the war ended. She can remember the Union troops going through and Sherman marching through Georgia to the sea and all that. It's funny, because, on the other side, that would be my maternal grandfather's mother, my maternal grandmother's family were Bennings. Colonel Henry Lewis Benning was a Confederate general and Georgia Supreme Court Justice and his wife and daughter were named Caroline Benning, and so was my grandmother. [Editor's Note: Henry Lewis Benning and his wife, the former Mary Howard Jones, had a daughter named Anna Caroline.] In fact, I have a daughter named Caroline Benning, [laughter] just keeping the tradition going forever. So, I'm pretty proud of the history and a lot of black people don't know all the stuff that I know. I was happy to sit down with her as a little boy and talk with her and, I mean, she lived quite a life. She lived from the Civil War to John F. Kennedy's time. That's a long time.
BH: And then, she died, I mean, no illness, went to sleep one night and lived by herself, because, when I went to Georgia in the mid-'50s, they have something called the "Second Sunday in August" in the Baptist Church in that area. There's a church that my family was affiliated [with] called Bethany Baptist Church. It's still there and the graveyards have all of the burials of my ancestors. She lived alone, stayed competent, and then, just died one day. It's amazing.
WB: You mentioned that your father was in the Air Force.
WB: Do you know what rank he ultimately achieved?
BH: Yes, he was a sergeant. He didn't have a college education. He went in right out of high school and went into that as an opportunity. My parents probably couldn't afford to go to college. When my grandmother went, they would pick one black student who had promise and they would send you to Spelman or Morehouse for a year. Then, you would come back and be the teacher for K-12. Actually, when I went down and met my great grandmother, the school that she taught in, from, like, 1900 [to] 1921, was still there. It was, like, a one-room shack sitting beside a stream, no indoor plumbing, no electrical. There was an outhouse. The kids would come to the school and stick their lunch, which would be, like, a bottle of milk or water and a sandwich, in the stream and that was their refrigeration. Anyway, I actually saw that school, probably about 1954, '55. I mean, it's gone now,, but she took me down there one summer when I met my great grandmother and went back for what they call "homecoming," which, at this church, it's all of the relatives who are spread throughout the country come home. They have a big, like, picnic at the church and it's, like, a tradition in a lot of churches in the South.
WB: Did religion play a big part in your life growing up?
BH: Always. My grandfather was a minister, in addition to being a farmer, and he preached both in Georgia and in Tennessee. Then, my uncle, who was married to one of my mother's older sisters, was one of the strongest influences in my life. He built and created a new church. He was from Alabama. His name was Woodrow Wilson Taylor. He's a famous sort of national preacher who went from Chattanooga and had one of the largest churches in Chicago, Shiloh Baptist, which is--was--on the West Side, and then, moved to the South Side. Through him, I met Martin King, because when I was in college and older, I would go and visit him and he would sponsor me, and Kelly Miller Smith, who had North Capitol Baptist Church in Nashville, which was affiliated with Fisk University. I met a lot of famous black preachers because my uncle was a famous black preacher. So, religion has always been a part. I was always involved in religion. I was in the Kirkpatrick Chapel ushers at Rutgers, and was close with the Chaplain at Rutgers when I was there. I've always--when I went to Harvard, I was involved with Memorial Church. Now, I just finished ten years as a trustee at the oldest Baptist church in Fairfield County, Union Baptist, which was formed by former slaves after the Civil War. I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut, in Stamford. So, I've always been affiliated with religion.
WB: Can you tell me what it was like, for the time that you were there, growing up in Chattanooga?
BH: Sure. It was segregation and it was horrible, but, because I was an only child, we were middle-class, because, I mean, my parents didn't have a lot of money, but I was the only one. So, I mean, I had clothes and toys and bikes and things like that. Then, we had a huge family, which means that I lived--I mean, I lived in a courtyard where we lived on the corner. My school was across the street. My first cousin, who was the closest thing to a brother that I have, lived over here. My grandmother lived there. I mean, like, literally, I could get in a fight and bully someone and beat them to my grandmother's porch and hide behind her skirt and talk crap to them, [laughter] because she would be sitting on the porch every day when we got out of school. So, it was hilarious. Then, all my other cousins, which were like my siblings, I mean, basically, all of our parents worked. We all went to two schools, West Main Street and James A. Henry, which were, like, three blocks apart. They were both elementary schools, but, because my grandmother was retired by the time we all came along, we were always at her house after school. She would give us something to eat and we'd stay there, and then, eventually, go home or our parents would pick us up. So, she was like our [babysitter]--we had our own sort of, like, family daycare, post school, etc. It was a great school and every teacher that I had taught both my parents, which meant there was nowhere to hide, because they knew your parents from the time that they were children. So, they would call up on you; you'd see them at church, on the street, blah, blah, blah. There was no [hiding], like, "I know Miss Such-and-Such. If she said you did this, you did it." So, there was no, like, "She's lying on me," and dah, dah, dah. So, we knew--we were afraid of the teachers--they could beat you at the time. Performance in academics was really an important thing, because my grandmother had been a teacher and she was still a substitute teacher, even when I was in school. So, she had retired, but she would sometimes be my substitute teacher, which sort of complicated it even more. I got a great education because they really cared about us and they were related to us. This was a period in time before very bright blacks had opportunities in the corporate and other worlds. So, they always became teachers. So, the minds that we lose in education today were all in education [then]. So, the people who were teaching were top-notch and that was, like, teachers were at the top of the food chain in terms of the society and the world. You could be a doctor, you could be an undertaker, you could be a preacher or you could be a teacher. Those were basically--or you could work in the post office, if you got really lucky--but those, if you were going to be middle-class, that's one of the things you did. So, I mean, I did very well. I guess my mother finished her nursing degree while I was in, like, the fifth or sixth grade and my father was getting out of the service. She had an older sister who lived in New Jersey. So, when he got out at McGuire [Air Force Base], we stayed there. They lived in Neptune, New Jersey, and we started a new life there. It was good in the sense that they wanted me out of the South. The schools hadn't integrated. The school that I went to was built in 1888. It was in horrible shape. We would get the books that the white students had discarded. I remember--in fact, I still have it and I've taken it to my kids' school--because I did a great report in the sixth grade and you kept a scrapbook on it and I got an "A" on it. I took it home to my mother and I had done a report on Palestine. In 1959, Palestine had been gone for ten years, because Israel was created in 1948, but the books that we had still had Palestine. When my mother saw that, she said, "Okay, we're out of here," and I moved to New Jersey. Anyway, I went in the seventh and eighth grade at Ridge Avenue School in Neptune, New Jersey, which were essentially de facto segregated, even though they were in New Jersey, because of where you lived. I think there was one white girl in our classes. She was, like, a migrant worker's child, and so, she lived in a black neighborhood. We didn't hit integration until we got to the ninth grade. They were on an 8/4 system, which means that you went through elementary school to the eighth grade, graduated, and then, you went to high school together. At the high school, because I had done well, they tracked us. So, I went through high school in a tracking system where I was in a college prep program and I would see a lot of blacks only at lunch and at gym. There was one other black girl who essentially went through all my classes. She was off-the-charts smart. She ended up going to Temple, Dr. Anita Roach Rogers, and she and I went through that college prep program. Then, I went on to Rutgers. Going back to the South, I can remember, you couldn't try on clothes. I can remember, if a great Disney movie came out, we had to wait until the whites got through with it, because we didn't even have a system where we would be in the balcony and they would be downstairs. We had separate theaters. If a movie was really hot, like Snow White or The Light in the Forest, a Disney movie, they would keep it, because they would keep going to see it and they would hold it. It used to piss us off, because it would be on the news, and then, you wanted to see it, but they would, like, instead of having it for a month, they'd have it for three months. So, by the time you got to see it, the desire was gone. The other thing that was funny, there was a girl who was a good friend of mine, who I was crazy about, Carole Elligan. She and her family, her mother was practically white and was one of our teachers and her father was very fair. So, she and her siblings could pass for white and they would go with the mother, and not the father, because the father's hair would give them away, but the mother and the kids, in the summertime, would pass for white and go. Then, she would taunt me because she had seen these movies. [laughter] Her name was Carol Elligan and we're still friends. Her cousin's one of my best friends. He's in Cincinnati, but, I mean, it was that type of world, where we were protected, we were safe, we were secure, but there were things that we couldn't do. I didn't like that, because I had also lived around the country, in Washington State and Texas and other places, and in Chicago, because, one year, my father was in Okinawa, Japan and we stayed with my aunt, who was the preacher's wife, in Chicago. So, I had experienced integration, which made it harder for me to live in Tennessee. I think, also, my parents felt that I was eleven and I was getting tall and I was going to be a problem. I was probably going to do something and somebody was going to kill me, because, even then, I was drinking at white water fountains and challenging [segregation]. I would go to a counter and ask for something and they wouldn't serve me and I would say, "Why not?" things like that. I remember, you'll find this crazy, too, they had a casting call for a Disney movie. They used to make things like Daniel Boone [part of the Walt Disney Presents TV series] in Tennessee and they put a thing in the paper that people were going to audition for parts. I was told not to go and I jumped on my bicycle, I rode down there. I got in line and they were going--they're looking for kids who were going to be Indians and this and that. I'm going, "Well, I look more like an Indian than that blonde kid who you're letting go. [laughter] I don't understand," stuff like that. Are you getting a picture? [laughter] So, anyway, we moved to New Jersey.
WB: Where did that come from?
BH: It came from my family, because they were [active] politically. My grandfather would get in trouble and preach and tell people to go out and vote. Then, there would be a cross burned in a yard. There was an education. So, then, you would read about other people who had [resisted]. My grandmother would read to us about people who had been in black history and who had protested, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, things like that. So, that came from that part, and then, it certainly came from me. I mean, I always read a lot, I was up on things and I felt that I had a right to be a part of the country.
WB: What kind of things were you reading?
BH: You name it. We were avaricious in the sense that you'd go to the library--they used to get mad at me. Here's an example, at the Chattanooga Public Library, and I had librarians say to me, "You took out The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. A white kid could be reading that and you keep holding on to it," and I would read some of it. I mean, honestly, it was like very [thick] and I would take it, and then, I would sign it out again and again and again, because I was reading it very slowly. She, the librarian, said to me, "Well, I mean, what do you need this for?" and blah, blah, blah. I would go, "I don't have to give you an explanation." Anyway, accidentally, when we moved to New Jersey, that book came with me. I still have it. Are you getting the picture? [laughter] That's one of my most prized possessions--I think, when I was grown, I think I sent them a check, because I felt guilty, but I still have the book and they'll never get that book. It's my book.
WB: Were there any instances when a librarian would refuse to loan you a book?
BH: No, but they would complain about what I took out and why did I need it? Essentially, what they would say to me, in a kinder way, is, "What does a nigger boy need with that and what are you doing?" The teachers that I had, culturally, I mean, they had us into classical music. I mean, my sixth grade teacher was one of the best teachers--and that includes everybody at Rutgers and everybody at Harvard Law. I lived across the street from the school and she would send me home to go get the radio, because she was a music person, too, and we would have music [class]. There would be a classical musical presentation and she did not have a radio. Can you imagine the liability if you sent a kid across a major street to go home to get something today? Or she would need something, like somebody had a birthday and they had a cake and she didn't have a knife. "Oh, could you go home and get it?" Literally, it was like between here and my office. So, I'd go home, unlock the door, [go] upstairs, get a knife, come back to school. I mean, can you imagine a kid bringing a knife in school today?
WB: Not today, no.
BH: So, I mean, it was a totally different world, anyway, but she was really a great influence on me. She challenged me and she pushed me out into areas that I probably would not have gone. Her name was (Mariah Elligan Robinson?) and she taught both my parents. She lived to be about ninety-six and she was the aunt of the girl, Carol Elligan, who taunted me about the movies, the one who I used to be madly in love with and I actually went out with her through college. It's hilarious.
WB: In what year, approximately, did you leave Tennessee?
BH: '59. I was eleven when we left in 1959 and moved to New Jersey and I finished high school in '65 and college in '69, law school, '72.
WB: How would you compare New Jersey, Neptune, to Chattanooga, Tennessee?
BH: It's funny--I had real competition in Tennessee.
BH: Oh, yes, to the decimal point. I mean, there were some girls--it was always the girls--who were off the charts. I had to, I made myself, learn how to write better, because, at one point, I would see that I wrote the same thing, but, like, I would get a ninety-three and they would get a ninety-five. I came to realize it was because they had better handwriting and female teachers preferred that. So, I said, "Okay, two can play that game," and I sat down and I [taught myself]. This is pre-computer, where everything you did was written. Men, traditionally, write horribly and women write better, and so, they get better grades. So, then, I started to write better [laughter] and I started to get better grades. When I came to New Jersey, I assumed my position right in the front of the classroom, which was traditionally where I sat, prepared to be the teacher's pet, to erase the board, do whatever she wanted. All the black boys were in the back, the girls were in the front and people said--first, I had a Southern accent, so, I was going to catch hell and I'm in New Jersey and I'm trying to get acclimated. We were afraid of teachers and they weren't. We would never talk back to a teacher and they would. Teachers could beat us and they couldn't get beaten. So, I was picked on, an oddity, and that was the first thing I noticed. I noticed that the kids weren't trying the way the kids in the South did. We had some white teachers and some black teachers, but the attitude, even in middle school, was different. That was the first thing I noticed. The second thing that I noticed was that, I don't know, there was not--like, my mother, I came in, they said, "You're from the South--we have to put you back," and my mother said, "Excuse me, have you seen his transcript?" They said, "No." She said, "Well, look at it," and then, we went through that fight. Naturally, after they saw my grades, they didn't do that, but one of the teachers, who was a black woman--I was recently on a trip with my classmates from that period. We just came back from Africa about a week ago. Some of the guys who went from the seventh grade to the twelfth grade with me, two of them are retired judges and we just went on a "bucket list" trip to Africa with our wives. We're talking on the trip about things that happened to us in the seventh and eighth grade and one of the guys, this teacher told him he was not college material. Now, he went to Bowie State and Catholic University. He was mayor of the town. He's a retired Chief Judge of Monmouth County. We were laughing about that, but she said to me, "You're from the South. You can't be that smart. You must be a filibuster," and this is a black woman. She gave me hell. I remember, when I graduated from high school, I was one of the top students and I was one of the graduation speakers. I came down off of the [stage]--they have a thing in Asbury Park/Neptune called Ocean Grove Auditorium. It's an open-air auditorium where we graduated. She came up to "claim me," as one of her students that she had taught, and I spun around and just ignored her, letting her know that I never forgot what she had said to me. I mean, I'm a seventh-grade kid and I didn't need that. I took it--it really stung me and it's the type of thing that you would think would come from somebody white and this was somebody black. So, that was [new]--I had never had a black teacher who wasn't in my corner. [laughter] You get emotional thinking about it now, but, I mean, that was scary to me, scary.
WB: Were there any other kids from the South in your class in seventh and eighth grade?
BH: No, they were all from there. They had all been born and had grown up there and Asbury Park is a pretty sort of middle-class community. Fort Monmouth, which is where the Signal Corps was there, was sort of the base, there were a lot of people whose parents were engineers and things like that. It was the Signal Corps, and then, Camp Earle was the naval ammunition depot, and then, there were the doctors and lawyers, etc. So, it was a pretty middle-class area. We had a good group of kids.
WB: Did you spend any time around any of the adjacent or close by Shore towns?
BH: Sure, all of them. You cross two blocks and you go to a different town. So, for instance, in Monmouth County, where I grew up, you knew all the kids in Asbury Park, all the kids in Belmar, all the kids in Manasquan, all the kids in Red Bank, all the kids in Long Beach--if there was a party, everybody was there, when we were in high school. If there was a party, like, my high school probably had, I don't know--there were almost a thousand kids in my class. It was a big school and because Neptune was a regional school, I'd say there were probably thirty-five hundred kids in the school, four hundred of whom were black. The clique that we moved around in, which was a lot of the kids who were in college prep, we had friends that were in--my best friend was in Manasquan--Brielle, Belmar, Red Bank, Long Branch. So, I mean, we cross-pollinated and everybody crossed all those borders, because every few blocks, it was a different town, yes.
WB: Was there, generally, acceptance among your peers of people of different races or ethnicities?
BH: No, no. My high school in New Jersey was very bigoted. The principal was a guy named Russell Coleman, whose son was in our class. He was a terrorist, essentially, and everybody was afraid of him. He would come on the intercom at the Saturday night sock-hops and say, "There will be no interracial dancing." I can remember a teacher at the high school saying, "I heard you've been talking to this white girl." He gave me a series of ninety-four, "Bs," when ninety-five was an "A," until, I guess, he assumed that I had stopped talking to her. We couldn't get elected dogcatcher. I was trying to build a résumé to get to college, and so, I created a literary magazine called The Proteus. I was a worker, and then, I was the art editor, and then, I was the assistant editor-in-chief. As a senior, I wanted to be the editor-in-chief, so [that] I'd show the progression--this is what I was doing. A group of white kids came in, planned, organized, outvoted me, took it over and, my senior year, I didn't have a title. That was, like, the type of thing and that, things like that, happened to us all through that school, because they had us outnumbered. They were Machiavellian about it and they knew they could do it. So, you could be the best athlete, but you couldn't be elected best athlete. You could be this, but you couldn't be--if you looked at all of the superlatives in the yearbook, there are very few blacks who were in there and it was not an accident. There were no black teachers in the high school, except in industrial arts and home economics or something like that. It was a bigoted school and I was affected by that, because I decided, when I went to Rutgers, that I was going to be everything I wanted to be and nobody was going to stop me. So, I sort of went to Rutgers with a real chip after four years at that high school. I was much more Machiavellian about getting what I wanted than I probably would've been normally, because the high school was really restrictive.
WB: I am sorry if you mentioned it before, but what was the name of the high school?
BH: Neptune, Neptune High School, Neptune, New Jersey.
WB: Public school?
BH: Oh, definitely public school, and a regional public school, though. Neptune would be Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach, Neptune City, Neptune, I think, and Avon. So, it was a regional high school, which means those five cities fed their kids there.
WB: During the summers, did you go to the beaches, Point Pleasant, Manasquan?
BH: Sure. We mainly went to Belmar.
BH: Belmar, 18th Street in Belmar was sort of like the black area. That's where, if you wanted to find somebody, you hung out there. I was even a lifeguard there, I think briefly, for one summer. We worked. I worked at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park. They had a movie theater there. I was one of the ushers. I had a couple of jobs. I worked at Fort Monmouth one summer, after I graduated, I think as a clerk-typist. I worked at a state program building Turkey Swamp State Park. We actually dug a lake, with kids just shoveling dirt into trucks and towing it away, one summer. So, I mean, it was a very safe place. In those days, you could go from town to town and party and chase women and the guys in Red Bank would run you away, but they wouldn't shoot you or stab you. There'd be a fight and we'd run to the bus station or to our cars or something like that. It was always over girls, always. We'd go to Newark and Trenton and even into New York City, because, once we learned to drive, we'd be everywhere, so, we had a good time. Despite the things I'm telling you about, the underlying prejudice, the core group of friends I had are still friends of mine today and all of them did well. Larry's a lawyer. Ernest Booker is a lawyer and a judge. Anita got her PhD. She teaches at Temple, where she went to school. Sonny Colson went to Yale Medical School. He's retired now and lives in Spain, but, for a core group of friends coming out of a place like Neptune High School, everybody got a professional degree, everybody went on to college. I mean, it's amazing, it's amazing.
WB: How did your parents adjust to Neptune?
BH: Fine. My parents, my mother had her sister and her family there. My father had no relatives there and it was probably more difficult for him. She worked at what is now Jersey Shore Medical Center. So, they adjusted.
WB: You mentioned several jobs that you had. What did you do with your money?
BH: Save it, for college and to buy clothes and take women out. I was spoiled in the sense that my parents only had me, and so, even though they weren't wealthy, there was enough.
WB: What year did you graduate high school?
WB: Were you following national or international politics at all?
BH: Sure, sure I was, yes. Yes, we were active politically. We had an Explorer post that actually went across the country at the time of Kennedy's assassination and we went from New Jersey to Cape Canaveral. We stopped at, and put a wreath at, Kennedy's grave about two weeks after he had been killed and went through Arlington National Cemetery, went to a whole series of military and other bases that the Scouts had put together on our way to Cape Canaveral and went down to see the missile system. We're involved in that. I'm trying to think of other--I remember the March on Washington in 1963, when King spoke. I know we were involved in that and people from our church went. When I was in high school, Malcolm was still alive and I remember seeing him on TV and actually seeing him in Harlem. I'm trying to think of other things. [Editor's Note: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. On August 28, 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held on the National Mall, during which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made his famous "I Have a Dream" address.]
WB: Did your father express to you his thoughts or did you talk to him about Vietnam?
BH: No, because my father was in the military during Korea and Vietnam was only an issue for me. I had a lot of friends who I went to high school with, who didn't go to college, who went immediately to Vietnam, and most of us who went...
WB: Enlisted or drafted?
BH: Both, both. Some of the first people who died from my high school class were people who went into the military, because they weren't going to college. When I graduated, my mother put in The Asbury Park Press that I had been accepted to Harvard Law School. About a week later, I was drafted and I was curious, because I was very young. I was a year ahead of myself. So, I didn't turn twenty-one until February of my senior year and I had not graduated--this is April. So, the 1st of April, you find out about going to graduate school. I didn't graduate until June. They classified me 1-A and notified me that I was going to be drafted even before I got out of college. Usually, there's a lag period. So, I went down to Asbury Park and went to the draft board that was there. The attitude of the people, I didn't like. Then, I went--there was an avenue then, it used to be called Springwood, it's now called Lake--but it was the "ghetto" street. There was a barbershop I used to go to and all the guys who didn't go to college and who I knew, they always hung out in front of the barbershop. I go, "Did you get drafted?" "No." "Have you heard from the draft board?" "No." "You?" "No, no, no," nobody had heard from them. They're, like, standing--I'm at Rutgers, graduated--and they're standing on the street. So, I said, "Okay, I see what's going on here." Clearly, for me, it was my mother [that] put that tiny article in the Asbury Park Press and somebody said, "This nigger thinks he's going to law school. Oh, no, he's going to Vietnam." So, my roommate was dating, and then, married a very famous lawyer in New Jersey's, daughter named Ray Brown. [Editor's Note: Attorney Raymond A. Brown (1915-2009) served as defense counsel in numerous Civil Rights and other high-profile criminal cases, including for boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and New Jersey State Senator Angelo Errichetti in the Abscam case.] He was a colonel in the New Jersey National Guard and I knew Ray well. I called "Uncle Ray" and I said, "Look, this is what's happening," and he threw a fit. He was in Jersey City and he went to the Guard and said, "You know all these middle-class white guys are hiding out in the Guard and nobody black is in there. So, I think you need to equalize this." So, he put me at the head of a twenty-five-hundred-man waiting list and I was inducted into the Guard. Then I go back down to Asbury, to the draft board, I said, "I've enlisted." The guy made the mistake of saying to me, "Well, you're still going to have to sit around and wait for a year for them to cut orders. You won't be able to go to law school in the fall." I said, "How did you know I was going to law school?" and it answered the question that I had. I'm getting ahead of myself, but you brought this up about Vietnam. I had a fraternity brother named Michael Freeman and his father was three-times Governor of Minnesota and Secretary of Agriculture under Kennedy and Johnson. [Editor's Note: Orville L. Freeman served as Governor of Minnesota from 1955 to 1961 and as US Secretary of Agriculture from 1961 to 1969.] He was a good friend of mine and we would go to DC and actually get into the Department of Agriculture and the White House through him. He knew Lucy Bird Johnson and she would come out and, sometimes, be at bars and places that we were at, but through that whole fraternity thing, and I was a Chi Psi at Rutgers, we would also get into embassy parties. I met--well, I don't know how I can describe this--she was about a thirty-five-year-old woman who was very attractive and black. Senators and Congressmen liked her, but she liked twenty-one-year-olds. How can I say it nicely? So, we called her "The Courtesan." Once we got to know her, she would get us into places that we probably would not have gotten in anyway, because she was invited everywhere, because she was very beautiful and everybody was chasing her. She's probably married now and I never mention her name. We just call her "The Courtesan," but, anyway, I said, "Now, how do I get my orders cut?" because I said, "I've got to, if this is going to work," the day after graduation was something like June 1st, "I've got to leave June 5th to go to basic and AIT in order to make it to law school by September." So, I called up The Courtesan, I explained my problem. From her boudoir telephone, she reached into the Pentagon to somebody who was trying to get into her pants and she had my orders cut. So, then, I go back to the guys at the Asbury Park Draft Board and I go, "Hey, man. My order have been cut. I'm leaving after graduation." And they went, "How did you do this?" And I go, "Don't worry about it, like, I'll be leaving and bye." [laughter]
BH: You can't make this up, can you?
WB: No. Actually, to clarify, when I asked about your father and talking about Vietnam, I was not talking about sharing service experiences, I was wondering, because he was a veteran, did he express to you any feelings, pro, con, about the conflict?
BH: We had the first anti-Vietnam War teach-ins against the war with Eugene Genovese, who got run out of Rutgers when I was a freshman. He was very left-wing and he ended up, I think, at Berkeley and they used to call Rutgers "Berkeley East." The Board of Governors was against him. [Editor's Note: On April 23, 1965, at a teach-in at Rutgers University's Scott Hall dedicated to discussing US foreign policy in Vietnam, professor of history and scholar of slavery and the American South Eugene D. Genovese declared, " ... I do not fear or regret the impending Viet Cong victory in Vietnam. I welcome it." Amidst the controversy that ensued, Rutgers University President Mason W. Gross, with the support of the faculty, resisted public pressure to dismiss Genovese. Dr. Genovese left Rutgers in 1966 for Sir George Williams University in Montreal, then, the University of Rochester where he served on the faculty from 1969 to 1986.] So, I had developed positions about the war totally independent from my father. My father wasn't political, in the sense that he'd never served in combat. He was in the Air Force and he served in Okinawa for a year, but that's the closest to combat. By the time he got there, everything in Okinawa was safe, but all of my older cousins, and because I'm the child of the baby, I had a cousin, Colonel Horace Jordan, who I think is the oldest male cousin, he finished college at Central State in '54. He had lost both of his parents and his older brother between, I think, his junior year in high school and his first year in college to tuberculosis. He went to Central State on a scholarship, ROTC, and then, went directly into the military and stayed in and became a full-bird colonel. He went through all of Vietnam. He was jumping into Cambodia and Laos, Airborne Special Forces, in '63, before I left high school. The next male cousin, Reverend Monroe Freeman, finished Central State four years behind him in '58, and then, he went in. So, their experiences, especially Horace's, because Monroe wasn't in a combat because of his MOS, Horace would come home, he'd talk about how rough it was. He was in Vietnam, he was in Cambodia, he was in everything that came up until he finished his career, which was in the '70s. Because of the family tradition and everybody had served, I knew I had to serve, but I wasn't going to get killed. So, the National Guard was perfect for me, because I could go in, I did six years. My MOS was a tank crewman, but, then, when I got into law school, I went--they have sort of an ROTC program called the MASS Military Academy that you can go to at the Armory on Commonwealth Avenue, near BU, that big armory. You've probably driven by it a million times. I went there for a year and I got a commission as a 2nd lieutenant. So, I spent the next five years as an officer working at the Armory, Boston Army Base, in the 357th Civil Affairs Unit, with half of the State Legislature of Massachusetts. We would go to Europe and do studies for the State Department in the summer, which was perfect. Vietnam was never a possibility--I went through jungle training, I saw the people when I was in basic and AIT at Fort Knox. You could see then people coming back with various drug problems and forms of PTSD. One of the shocking things for me was, even when I first got to basic, they shave your hair. They take all your dirty clothes and underwear, they put it in a cardboard box--they won't let you put a note in it--they send it to your mother. Your mother opens the box and there is your dirty underwear and she falls on the floor thinking, "Oh, my god, my son is dead." I thought that was cruel. They stopped doing that now, but that was what [they did, so that] they sort of break you down. Anyway, I'm there and there are a whole bunch of brothers from Newark and Detroit and Chicago, etc. They say, "Put your hand in the air and when we get to your level of education, stop." Well, a lot of the hands were down before the eighth grade. There were a lot of people who had the option of going to Vietnam or going to jail. They said, "Mr. Hubbard, you've got sixteen years of education. Let's put that education to good use. Here's a toothbrush. You get latrine duty for the first two weeks. Take that toothbrush and clean the toilets." That's what they thought of my Rutgers degree. Then, I was a platoon guide, I was involved with Armored Stakes [a military competition?]. They give you a lot of testing; I tested well on it. That created resentment. People were saying, "You should stay in and go into OCS." I'm going, "I'm in law school. I'm going to be gone in three months. Are you out of your mind?" I saw things when I was in the Army, too, from black people from places like Detroit and Chicago who had a prison attitude, in terms of violence, in terms of sex--it was unbelievable. They put their hands up and they said, "Who has had a venereal disease? Who has used drugs?" and I'm sitting there going, "Can I call my mother and let her know that I've got to use the same johns as these guys?"
WB: Because so many people were putting their hands up.
BH: Yes, and this was '69. Then, they had a race riot at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and they shipped a lot of the white guys up and put them in with us, tried to separate them. Because I was a platoon guide--I'm the guy who carries the flag--you get your own room. So, I had a room and that was a barracks. The platoon guide had a room at the beginning of the barracks, and then, the platoon sergeant had a room, and then, everybody else is in an open barracks. After these guys got up there, they had a fight and people were actually hitting each other with these folding metal chairs, you know the type. Fortunately, for me, I had a room, and so, I didn't have to wake up to a chair coming at my head. That was in the summer of '69, the summer that we landed on the Moon and blah, blah, blah. It was not--I would sit and read my letters from home and my box of cookies and count the days until I could get the hell out of there.
WB: Let us talk about your Rutgers experience, starting with how did you decide on Rutgers or how did you end up at Rutgers?
BH: Okay. I wanted to go to Dartmouth or Yale or somewhere like that and I wasn't being supported by the school because I was black. I did well on the PSAT and SAT. So, they had just started the program to select blacks for the--what's the SAT scholar program called? Then, they created another one for blacks--National Merit, and then, they had the National Achievement. So, it was the National Achievement, was one of the first years, and that was the first year they had created that for blacks. So, if you did well, you qualified for a National Achievement Scholarship as a black, and then, you got selected to be contacted by these schools. So, I got a full scholarship to Howard, Hampton, places like that, but, then, I was interested in Dartmouth and Rutgers and other places. I think I got a scholarship to go to Fairleigh Dickinson. They wanted me to be a rower and I said, "I don't think so." If you got a scholarship and you were black and you were big, you also had to play a sport. So, I went to the Dartmouth interview and there was a huge table in Colts Neck and there were all these white guys. I had gone with my friends to Newark and we had the Easter Monday Ball at Convention Hall. Everybody would buy, like, a fancy suit and you'd go to church on Easter, and then, you'd run home and take it off, because, on Easter Monday night, you wanted to go to the party. So, mine was sort of white iridescent and, when the light hit it, it would change color. So, we had gone to Newark and we thought we were just the hottest thing going. I had some, like, maybe the shoes were sort of purple-y, alligator-y, and it was hot, hot. So, I mean, I've got my Dartmouth interview, I put on my new suit. I go and I look around the room and all these white guys, they're tweed-ed up, with the arm patches and tweed. The guy who's at the head, the first thing he says to me is, "Nice suit." So, that's the first time I got it and I said, "Well, thank you very much." The next question he asked me was, "Did your father go to Dartmouth?" and I started to see how that system operated. I said, "No." Knowing what I know now, I would've said, "Who black in 1965 has a father who went to Dartmouth?" Like, I mean, I subsequently found out that there were people who [did]--I have friends I went to law school with whose fathers actually did go and had been there. There's a whole sort of cadre of the literati who had gone to prep schools, like St. Mark's and St. Paul's and Exeter, etc., and those kids had gone. So, knowing now, it's not an unreasonable question, but, anyway, I was "flotsam and fluff" for them and I didn't get admitted. So, of the schools that I was admitted to that were majority schools, Rutgers was the best. I got a State Scholarship, which means that the tuition was paid for four years, and then, I won a whole series of other scholarships, like the National Merit or National Achievement and Monmouth County Cotillion and the Negro Business and Professional Clubs. I mean, like, I could afford to go to Rutgers on my own. By that time, my mother had gotten a little ill, my parents were having issues and I didn't want to go far away, where, if I got a phone call, I couldn't come home. Rutgers is, like, an hour away. So, I went to New Brunswick and I had been there for Boys State. It had a great reputation. I was in pre-med then and I loved it, I really did. It was perfect for me. They went around the state in 1965 and recruited about fifteen black guys. The State University of New Jersey had no black students. So, I would say, on a campus of about sixty-five hundred students, when I got there, in all four classes, there were probably thirty black guys and even less, probably, at Douglass. We started with fifteen and five of us graduated on time. Some of the others graduated, but they didn't graduate with us. That was the first real push in Great Society Johnson years and I was at the beginning of it. Then, I got to Rutgers and I got to meet the guys from Princeton. I sat down with them and I said, "What were your SATs and what were your scores?" and mine were better. I realized, "Why wasn't I at Princeton or Yale?" They used to have something, back in those days, called "spook weekend," where Harvard, Yale and Princeton would have a conference and everybody black between, say, Maine and DC would get together, because there weren't that many blacks on campus. It would be a speaker and somebody like [student Civil Rights leaders] Floyd McKissick or Stokely Carmichael. Schools would pay and people would come and you'd get the school to sponsor sending students to go there. You would meet everybody. So, you could get everybody in a room. So, we got to know, really, who the other people were and what their qualifications were and that sort of inspired me. I said, "When I leave here, I'm going to the top school," because I realized that I was as qualified as the people who went anywhere. So, I came in and I had a white roommate. Rutgers was not creative. So, we were sitting in the dining hall, which is called the Brower Commons, and I said, "What room are you in?" "423 Tinsley." "What are you in?" "423 Mettler." "What are you in?" So, they had--like, most of these dorms are four to eight floors--so, each of us had been put strategically, like, right in the middle of one of these dorms. There was, like, no creativity related to it. It was like everybody sort of had the same room number. So, if something went wrong, the resident dean would know where the black guy was, if there was a riot. It's hilarious. I did well my first semester, in pre-med. I took bio, chem., calc., English, advanced placement in French. Then, I decided I was going to pledge a fraternity and we didn't have any black fraternities then. They told us we had to go to Newark at night to go Alpha or Omega, and so, I said, "I'm not doing that." So, we all got recruited by the white fraternities at Rutgers, who were also making a pitch. We had a meeting and said, "Instead of all joining together," Phi Sigma Kappa was the biggest fraternity with blacks there, they had most of the black guys, we said, "Let's spread out, so that when the brothers come behind us, they won't have to be the first one." So, we probably integrated five or six different fraternities that year. I became a Chi Psi and Chi Psi is right on College Avenue. I loved the fraternity and I was the first black to join. We had a whole series of issues because the president quit when they pledged me, said he wouldn't be in a fraternity with a nigger. It was a problem for me because, obviously, he wouldn't have been president if he wasn't popular. He was a guy named Merritt Lane Jr. It turns out his dad was the Chief Judge down in Freehold and I sometimes wonder if that had something to do with my problem later on with the draft, but you never know. Anyway, I had a couple of guys who were seniors who were very liberal who had wanted a guy named Curt Morrison the year before, who was a big swimmer and jock. They had blackballed him and they were still carrying a grudge about it. So, they said, "We're getting you in this year." When this guy, Merritt Lane, blackballed me, they have a procedure where you can do a four-fifths of the brotherhood. If you get four-fifths of the brotherhood to override it, they overturn the veto. They did that, and then, he quit and I joined. So, I had some problems, had some issues, but I stayed, and then, I wanted someone else black. We're on a one-man blackball system and, essentially, I blackballed everybody south of DC, probably for about a year-and-a-half to two years, until they gave me another black guy, because I wasn't going to be a token. So, Michael Chavies, who's a retired judge now, he's Class of '71, in Miami, he was the second guy. I'm still actively involved. I've been on their national council. I've run their scholarship programs. We just finished a three-million-dollar capital campaign that I was involved in to re-do the Chi Psi lodge. It's still there. There've probably been, I don't know, fifty black guys in the fifty years that I've graduated. My most recent mentee was the representative from the student body to the Board of Trustees. He graduated magna cum laude last year and I'm still very close to him. He's working for Deloitte Touche in DC as a consultant, a guy named Anthony Covington, who is from Trenton, from a single-family home. He got the Chi Psi Scholarship and did very well, too. The thing that sort of bound me to them is, they've got an educational trust fund that runs educational programs and mentoring programs. Even more than that, these guys actually die and donate their estates to the fraternity, and so, they will send you to college, to graduate school. I actually chaired that scholarship program for probably about five years. So, I'm still there. So, that's one part of my life at Rutgers. I stayed in pre-med for two years. I caught hell in it, in the STEM program. I was fighting against type and there was a great deal of what I considered to be discrimination, too. I was seeing guys from places like Fair Lawn, New Jersey, who they had come to Rutgers with their faculty and they had aped the curriculum. So, when I was a first-year student, I started studying with these guys and they had the same book, the same course, the same workbook that they had had as seniors. So, they were essentially repeating their senior year as a freshman, because they had aped the course. They were doing very well, but we were seeing this stuff for the first time. That was a revelation for me, in terms of what schools do, both in terms of preparation for SATs and the boards and things like that. This is not new. Anyway, I made it through, but, then, I wasn't doing as well as I wanted to. I realized that I was much better in writing, foreign languages, a whole series of things, than I was in physics and calculus, etc., but, in high school, you get "As" in everything, so, I didn't know that. I thought I was "all that." Anyway, I think I was a sophomore and they had a physics exam. We took physics with the engineers and the math majors. They put a T-square in the air and they rotated it and they hit it with several torque forces and they spun it. Everything was cumulative and you had a slide rule. So, if you got nervous and you were off by a decimal point, that means the last answer was off and you were off all the way through. I think I got a ten; the average grade was probably about fifteen. This is a three-hundred-person physics course. Several people got perfect one hundreds. Anyway, the professor ended up getting fired because the grades were way off. I had to take that course over and I did and I passed it. Then, I said, "This is crazy," and so, I switched to history. I came back--oh, and the other thing is, after your sophomore year, they make you go into what used to be St. Peter's Hospital, which is now Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, and you spend your summer with a cadaver. [Editor's Note: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital was previously named Middlesex General Hospital. St. Peter's is a Catholic hospital also located in New Brunswick, New Jersey.] That was another gift, because a lot of places don't put you into the blood-and-guts side until you're way down the road. I found out that sick people make me sick and that I didn't like blood, and so, those were two other qualifiers for me not being a doctor. So, I went back and I switched to history and I headed toward law. I never looked back and I never got a "B" again and I graduated very well in that nature, pulled up the grades that I had had in the biological sciences and did well enough to get into Harvard Law. I was on the Student Council and I was involved with the Targum and I was the representative to the Board of Governors. I made a decision when I went there that what they did to me in high school wasn't going to happen at Rutgers. So, I joined the white fraternity and I dated the white girls and I did everything I wanted to do. Everything they told me I couldn't do in high school and in Tennessee, I did it and I had a good time.
WB: What involvement did you have with the Targum?
BH: I would write an article from time to time, I would do some photograph stuff. I was on the Student Council, so, I would give them news articles about the things that the Student Council did. We, at that time, had the budget. We did all of the entertainment things. We actually got to decide. We brought Diana Ross and the Supremes, we brought--what's the woman?--Dionne Warwick, the Motown Revue. All those people would appear in the College Avenue Gym and, in those days, you could afford them. Now, can you imagine bringing Beyoncé and Jay-Z to Rutgers? You couldn't afford it.
WB: I have heard that that needed to be--some of the people you just mentioned are black--that needed to be a concerted effort because a lot of the people that the school had been bringing in traditionally were still ...
BH: They never fought us on--like, even today, if you were bringing in Beyoncé, you wouldn't have a fight. If you were bringing in some isolated rap artist, you might, because they would want Justin Bieber or what's that other woman who's a big thing now, the crazy one that Kanye West hates?
WB: Taylor Swift.
BH: Yes, right. So, the people that we wanted were so much at the core of everything. Black music was loved by the time we got there and we didn't have any opposition on that.
WB: What did you make of the marching, the organizing, the going to the Dean, the President, the Board of Governors, to bring in more black students, have more black studies, stuff like that?
BH: Yes, we had SAS, the Students for an African-American Society, and then, they had a couple of other even further left-wing organizations that were related to the war. So, there was sort of a merging between the two. I can't remember what the other organization, the really left-wing white organization, was. I can't--I mean, I'm getting old and I can't remember it--but Nanjarian and a couple of the white liberals were right there with us, pushing for the things that we wanted. We started with the demonstrations with Genovese when we were freshmen, and then, they burnt down the ROTC building, I think that year, but, by the time that ...
WB: Who burnt down the ROTC Building? [Editor's Note: In December 1969, it was reported that two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Rutgers Army ROTC Building, but that they caused little damage. A fire in April 1972 caused severe damage to the building. The building was blockaded by dozens of students protesting for the removal of ROTC from the Rutgers Campus in November 1967.]
BH: The antiwar people, yes, but, then, what happened was, they created an EOF [Educational Opportunity Fund] program. So, by the time I was a junior, there was a huge influx of black students who came from Newark and Trenton and Camden. Their first reaction was, "What are you guys doing in white fraternities? What are you doing associating with white people? How come you're going to white parties? What are you doing dating a white girl?" I mean, let me just tell you, we had more freedom in the first two years than we had going after that. Anyway, that group led demands for more things and there was more tension after that group hit the campus. Because of that, we started asking for money, programs, faculty and a whole series of things. That had not been happening until the numbers hit a critical mass, okay. All this came to a crescendo when I was a senior and we had a takeover of the President's Office, Mason Gross, and we had been pushing for a whole series of issues for black students--more black students, more black faculty, more black financial aid, more black administrative staff--the same things we're pushing for now. We've got a meeting with Barchi on the 26th and the black constituent organization that came out of the Black on the Banks has been meeting with him every few months since then. [Editor's Note: "Black on the Banks" was a two-day conference held at Rutgers on November 6-7, 2015, that brought together African-American alumni who were enrolled at Rutgers University in New Brunswick during the 1960s and early 1970s. Dr. Robert Barchi has served as the twentieth President of Rutgers University since September 2012.]
We took it over. He acted reasonably. We were trying to get the new student center, which is on College Avenue, named after Paul Robeson. They told us that they couldn't do that, because he was a Communist. [Editor's Note: Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was an African-American singer, actor and Civil Rights activist. He was valedictorian of his class at Rutgers University in 1919. Due to his support for Stalin, the USSR and the Communist Party during the McCarthy era, Robeson was blacklisted and had his passport revoked from 1950 to 1958, which prevented him from traveling to perform during those years.] I had both Mason Gross and Schlatter, who was the sitting Provost, as professors. He was President and Schlatter was Vice-President and they actually taught. They taught a senior seminar for me called, "Traditions and Transitions in Western Religious Thought." I got to know them pretty well. Anyway, I had learned that Schlatter had been a card-carrying Communist during the '30s in the period before the Stalinist purges. So, he's sitting there, as a member of the Board of Governors, and we are in front of TV and radio. It's an open meeting and I'm the representative on the Board and they're telling us no. I said, "Well, how is this possible? You've got a card-carrying Communist sitting right beside you who's on the Board. I mean, so, is this fair and equitable?" "Goddammit, Hubbard, that's goddamn dirty," Gross cursed me out. I mean, I was scared, because I was a graduating senior and he and Schlatter were my professors. So, I'm saying, "Okay, you stood up." They gave us a room in the student center named after Paul Robeson, after I embarrassed them, but, now, I went home and I said, "Oh, shit. Now, you got what you wanted, but, now, you've fucked yourself." So, I immediately walked down the street and Schlatter lived on College Avenue. I went to his house and his wife let me in. I apologized to him and told him I was sorry, I didn't mean to affect his career or his life, and he accepted the apology. Then, I guess in the week after that, I apologized to Gross and he forgave me and they were a classier act than some of the subsequent presidents, like Lawrence and McCormick and people that we've had since then. [Editor's Note: Mr. Hubbard refers here to three Rutgers University Presidents: Dr. Mason W. Gross (1959-1971), Dr. Francis L. Lawrence (1990-2002) and Dr. Richard L. McCormick (2002-2012). Dr. Richard Schlatter, a Professor of History at Rutgers since 1946, served as University Provost and Vice-President from 1962 to 1971.] When we left, their cave-in to our demands was the creation of Livingston College. Livingston was created at the Heights Campus and, for a term of about ten years, everything black was there. I had opposed that because Rutgers was on a federalized system and College Avenue and Douglass remained lily-white. [Editor's Note: In the late 1960s, Rutgers University issued the Federated College Plan, establishing the bureaucratic structure under which undergraduate education in New Brunswick existed during the late 1960s and 1970s. In the federated system, each of the five undergraduate colleges, Rutgers College, Douglass College, University College, Livingston College and Cook College, retained its own budget, dean, faculty, academic departments, campus, admission standards, student body, curriculum and mission statement. In 1965, the Curriculum Planning Committee, under the guidance of founding dean Ernest A. Lynton, undertook the task of designing Livingston College as an innovative, experimental institution dedicated to the teaching of the social sciences. By 1969, after riots across the nation and demonstrations by African-American students at Rutgers, Livingston planners expanded the college's mission to emphasize diversity and began to recruit and enroll minority students. Livingston College in Piscataway opened in 1969 as Rutgers-New Brunswick's first coeducational undergraduate college.] So, it's only been recently that Livingston has become an academic powerhouse and has become equal, as opposed to the stepchild. The Paul Robeson Cultural Center is out there, everything, like, "Put the niggers out there," and I was going, "Excuse me, I want to be on College Avenue Campus and anything worthwhile is on College Avenue Campus." So, I mean, that was an issue for me, but members of my class who stayed and worked at the University were there. They worked with Livingston. A lot of people from Douglass have been there. They've been there continuously all these years, they've done a good job. A lot of people have been educated and Rutgers has, probably behind Virginia and Michigan, probably the largest black alumni grouping anywhere in the country--and it should because of the population of the state, with Newark and Trenton and Camden, etc. So, good came out of that and it's been active. I've been active on the other side, too, all along. I'm in the RAAA [Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance], I'm involved with the Black on the Banks, but I've also been on the Board of Overseers in the Foundation. I've run my class reunion every five years for the last fifty years. Our fiftieth reunion will be the hundredth anniversary of Paul Robeson graduating in 2019. We had a meeting, day before yesterday, a conference call, and the black alumni, which is a large group, want more power and want more involvement, but a lot of people who could don't give money. They say, "Oh, I'm angry with that place. They were bigoted when I was there," and I was telling them on the phone this week, "Look, you've got to get over yourself for stuff that happened fifty years ago. I certainly have and the students who are there now need you. If you want power to be able to move issues, unfortunately, if you don't give money, you don't get it."
WB: That reminds me of something that I heard from, I think it was one of the last days of the Black on the Banks, watching it on video, there was a discussion between a couple parties. It was kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario, "You need to give money in order to get the things that black organizations want for the school," and the other side is saying, "The school is not doing anything for black organizations, why should I give money?"
BH: Well, see, that's, like, for instance, one of the things that I learned in that process is, I've always given money to, like, my class scholarship. We actually have a pool of about, I don't know, 500,000 [dollars]. We give out ten scholarships a year. That's my class. I've always given money to that and we've kept control of it. Like, I get the résumés, I'm one of the people on the committee. We decide and I always make certain that black people get a shot at those. The dean of the college has tried to [say], "Oh, we'll ween them for you and give you our [recommendations]." I say, "No, no, no--I want to see all of them," and then, when you get the names and you look at the backgrounds, you can tell who we are, by your organizations, where you're from, blah, blah, blah. So, that's one issue. The other thing I've found and I've learned recently--now, I've also given money to, like, the James Dickson Carr [Rutgers' first African-American graduate] and the Paul Robeson Scholarship--only we learned recently that we met white kids who are the recipients of the James Dickson Carr and the Paul Robeson Scholarship and we didn't know. We were told that, "Well, after the Department of Education made certain changes in recent years, you're not allowed to have that be just for the black students." So, one of the issues we're addressing is, "How do we channel money directly to [African-American students]?" and that is a problem for people in terms of giving,, but there are a lot of people who just don't want to give because they're angry. I was involved with the Samuel [DeWitt] Proctor Chair at the Graduate School of Education and the largest gift that a black ever gave to the University came from a professor in that school who was black. It was, like, forty grand and that's chump change compared to what people give every year. I'm involved with the Foundation and I see what people give. I give what I can, but I've had kids in school all along. Even with my drawbacks, if I look at what I've given over the fifty years, I'm one of the biggest givers probably among blacks, and even among whites. So, I mean, Rutgers did not have a Foundation until probably, like, 1980  and they're way behind Penn State and some other state schools, and certainly behind the private schools like Harvard. We have a very small endowment, but one of the things we're pushing for now is for the large black alumni base to get the recognition and the exposure and the impetus that we want by giving--and we've got money. There are people--I mean, like, trust me--there are black alumni at Rutgers who could afford to do it. They just don't. So, that's got to change and you've got to pay to play. If we want the things that we say we want--they were talking recently about Hillel. They built a new Hillel Center on College Avenue and the University gave them the land for, like, a dollar. Somebody's saying, "Well, blah, blah, blah." I said, "Well, if we raised that kind of money, they'd give us land on College Avenue for a dollar also," and we haven't done that.
WB: This is jumping ahead, but, since you just brought this up, I want to tackle it before I forget, the issue of black faculty at Rutgers. Did you mention that you are in conversations with ...
BH: Yes, we have. The black constituents are addressing that and we're in conversations with the University about it. I mean, their argument is, they get really good people and they get stolen away by Harvard and Yale. They develop junior faculty, and then, once they became famous--the best example is, oh, the woman who wrote the book about Thomas Jefferson, Annette Gordon-Reed. She was a professor at Rutgers and she got stolen away by Harvard. There've been several other people like that. The guy who won the Pulitzer Prize for writing about Martin Luther King, I can't remember his name. He's at NYU. [Editor's Note: Mr. Hubbard is referring to Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed, who earned the Pulitzer Prize for History for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), and Dr. David Levering Lewis, who earned the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography twice for his two-part biography of W. E. B. Du Bois.] So, basically, you'll have a black professor who will get gravitas and fame and a Pulitzer, and then, they'll wave money and the Ivy League, with their endowment, will take them away. So, that's one of their issues, but the other thing is, "Who's in the pipeline? How many people do you have?" We have an issue because the faculty decides on appointments of faculty and they do not let alumni or other people lobby in that process. Like, I've sat on search committees for deans and the head of the Graduate School of Education, which is sort of administrative. So, you can be a non-academic and be on an administrative search, but you cannot be, say, a non-physics person and be in the Physics Department on a search. Now, that's faculty controlled. So, what we're looking at is the control point where we can affect that and get them to agree to it, because there have been exceptions, people who have been--when I was on the Board of Overseers, I did some search committees. If you're on the Board of Trustees or the Board of Governors, does that trump that you're not a physician? I don't know. So, anyway, you've got to be at the table to play and what we're saying is, if we don't have people at the table, and then, they say, "Oh, we can't find people," if we're at the table, we're going, "Here's ten. Don't tell me you can't find black historians, black this, black that--I know twenty of them. Here are their résumés," I mean, and that's the answer. Then, even more importantly, when the people come up and they hem and haw, "Oh, well, we think this person ... " and, "We'd like them to have a little more of this and a little less ... " They play those games, too, and, like, we're going--you can cut through and cut up the people that they are favoring the same way they do our people. So, it's a game and we need to have access to play.
WB: Was it your junior or senior year when King was assassinated?
BH: Junior, yes, '68.
WB: What do you remember about that month?
BH: Well, I mean, they closed down the school and we had a colloquium led by Professor Susman and Professor McCormick, who's the father of President McCormick, and there was a lot of soul-searching on a lot of issues. [Editor's Note: Dr. Warren I. Susman, a cultural historian, taught at Rutgers from 1960 until his death in 1985. Dr. Richard P. McCormick, a scholar of New Jersey and US political history, served as a Professor of History, University Historian, Dean of Rutgers College.] Most of the white kids went home. We stayed there and had a colloquium. There was a lot of pain and a lot of crying and a lot of upset. Then, there was rioting, in Newark and all over the country. [Editor's Note: In April and May 1968, riots erupted in 125 US cities, including Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, DC, sparked by the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968.] I remember, my roommate, (Vernon Clash?), his mother was in Newark. He went to Weequahic High. I had a '57 Chevy and we went up to see that she was okay. They had tanks at the exit on the New Jersey Turnpike, because of the rioting. So, it was a tough time. I mean, we weren't at risk in New Brunswick; there was never anything there. They had a couple of incidents that year where some kids had gone to a party, black kids, to try to get in one of the fraternities, after this EOF group, and they had either been kicked out or gotten in a fight. So, they came and got some other black kids and went in and beat up the white kids. Then, all the white fraternities had under siege the black living group on the eighth floor of Clothier Hall. I had been up there with them. I was in the interesting position of, when I got out, I had to go back to my white fraternity for the night, where I lived. So, when you live with the enemy, it's an interesting thing. [laughter] So, I had to wade myself through the crowd. The State Police had come to rescue us. Once I got out, I had to go home, baby, and home was where they were.
WB: You were up there.
BH: I was up there in the thing, and then, when I came out, I had to go to my fraternity--and some of my fraternity brothers had been in the crowd that was trying to get them. Those are the types of things that we went through. I went back to the fraternity. I slept fitfully that night and it was an issue for me. I had some conflicts related to that, and then, we got over it.
WB: Did any of your fraternity brothers try and talk to you about that incident in good faith, trying to understand?
BH: Always. The people who were your good friends, and let me just tell you, there were thirty-five of us in our class and there are probably ten of them that I am still as close to as I am to anyone. Let me give you an example. There are identical twins. Their name used to be something that began with a "K" that was Greek and it was not pleasant. It sounded like a female organ and they used to catch hell for it. So, when we graduated, they went to Rutgers Law School, I went to Harvard. They said, "We're going to change our name," and they changed their name to their mother's name, which was terribly English and they could carry it off. Anyway, they ended up on Wall Street, I ended up on Wall Street. They called me up and said, "Like, you're the only person who knows." Their sister said, "You're not leaving me behind. I'm not going to keep this name. I'm going to change my name with you," and she had been a New York City schoolteacher. Anyway, she ended up being the head of real estate at Morgan Stanley. They became partners in the firm. They've become very wealthy and they've done very well. I have lived my entire adult life within a mile of one or the other. When I was in Boston, the one who is in Boston came and slept on my couch out at East Springfield Street, chasing a girl from Douglass, who, unfortunately, he didn't catch. She married her boss at BC, which turned out to be a blessing for him. Then, the other one lives a mile away from me now. He's in New York, but he lives in Darien and I live near the Darien/Stamford border and, like, we have the same birthday. We're born on the same day, same year. We call ourselves triplets and we've celebrated our birthdays together probably for the last thirty years. It's hilarious. My daughter who's at Harvard, this guy's got five apartments in Harvard Towers, next to the Aquarium, and he lives in (Ducksworth?). So, when my daughter got in, he says, "Well, when you're coming up here, you'll be here all the time to see your daughter," so, he threw me the key and said, "Hey, look, I've got a furnished apartment. It's got two bedrooms, three bathrooms. Give it back to me when she graduates." That was three years ago. So, when I go to Boston, I've got an apartment. I mean, we're good friends.
BH: And that has lasted through a lot of stuff and there was some racial stuff. I had a girlfriend when I was a sophomore. Some things went down and my mother--I went back to Tennessee and I had to go to Tennessee. She called me up and she said, "Are you going to marry me?" and I go, "Felicia, I've got a lot going on right now. Sure, I'm going to marry you, when I graduate from college and go to graduate school," blah, blah, blah. She said, "No, no, I mean now." I'm going, "Felicia, I'll talk to you when I come back. I've got to go down South." So, I came back in, like, a week or so and I got in my little car and diddy-bopped down to her house. She'd gone to school in New Hampshire. Her mother said, "What are you doing here? Felicia got married," the day she was on the phone. Now, that broke my heart, but she married a white guy and this is, like, 1967 and I'm vulnerable. I tell my fraternity brothers and, instead of them [offering support], it became, "Oh, she dumped you for a white guy," [laughter] and I didn't want to hear that. You understand what I'm saying? We have a thing called senior banquet, right before you graduate. They have a banquet and they bring out the absolute worst stuff that has happened to you since you've been in college, stuff that you want to bury and never want to hear about. As an example, one of our guys was very Catholic and he had a girlfriend the whole four years at Douglass. He wouldn't sleep with her and she was chaffing at the bit. So, a guy at Zeta Psi, which was a competing fraternity, he would take her back at eleven, eleven-thirty, this guy would take her out. At that time at Douglass, you had to sign in and sign out. So, there was a book. So, there was a record of what she did. So, they went over and they stole the book and they presented it to him at this senior banquet. Are you ready for this? This is the type of thing those bastards would do. Anyway, he married her--they're still married--and it was that book that made him change his ways. Anyway, when they did that to me, I ended up freaking out. I was going to leave and they took the distributor cap off of my car, so that I couldn't drive away. I actually moved out of the fraternity and moved in with Jerry Harris and Chuck Bowers, who were black classmates of mine, for a week, until we were getting ready to graduate. Then, about thirty-five guys came to me and apologized, right before baccalaureate. We made up, but I was--like that, that's just one of many. So, it was an interesting time.
WB: Are there any other professors or classes that stand out that you have not mentioned already?
BH: Sure. Jackson Toby in Sociology was great. I loved him. He had a whole theory called anomie. Susman was one of my favorites. He was a History professor and he taught everything in terms of what he called "operative tensions." I've used that most of my life. When you're writing something, you do the operative tensions between this and that and it's a great way of sort of organizing what the issues are that you're dealing with in terms of issue spotting. They were great professors. (Hastings?) headed the History Department and was the head of the American Historical Association when I was there. [Editor's Note: Mr. Hubbard may be referring to Dr. Henry R. Winkler, a Professor of History and department chair in the 1960s who served as Editor of the AHA's American Historical Review in the mid to late 1960s.] I'm trying to think of who else was just--had a couple of great foreign language teachers. I actually took the equivalent of four years of French, because I took four in high school, I took advanced placement and did four in college. I did--I was into theater--I was doing fifty-page term papers in French my sophomore year and I only took it two years, but I jumped past several years, because you could test out of it. So, I mean, Rutgers was top-notch and the people who were at the head of my class at Rutgers were as good as anyone I've ever seen anywhere. There were seven of us who went to Harvard together, out of one class at Rutgers. Henry Hubschman, who was almost at the top of our class at Rutgers, went seven years to school with me, four at Rutgers and three at Harvard Law. He was right at the top at Harvard Law, too, and so was Ira Feinberg and a couple other people who were there. So, it was a huge state university. They would punch you out of there. They would say to people, before Thanksgiving, "Based on your midterm exams, you know you're not doing well. It might be to your advantage to withdraw and start clean somewhere else." Droves of people would leave. I mean, like, it was the Baby Boomer [period]. They had people out in the hallways. Two-mans became four-mans. I mean, we were at the height of the Baby Boom; it was very crowded and a lot of people left. The competition there was incredible and I know that it made me well-prepared to compete with the people I went to Harvard with, yes.
WB: Let us talk about that. What year did you graduate?
WB: Did you go to Harvard straight away? You had this military obligation.
BH: Just for the summer. I got over every impediment. I didn't get to--this is how driven I was--I had two months of basic, which was June and July, two months of AIT, which was August and September, and AIT got delayed a little bit. So, I didn't really get to Harvard Law School until, probably, like, the 1st of November, but I went up and bought the books in the middle of the summer, when I got a leave from basic. Then, I had requested a black roommate who would give me the assignments. So, I was actually studying in a tank at night at Fort Knox. I came in and it's funny, because they had a picture chart and I hadn't been there. So, when I started showing up, a couple professors were like, "Who the hell are you?" I'd go, "Oh, I've been unavailable," anyway, but, in December, you had to take exams. Then, my wife, who I married at the end of my first year, went there with me, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get there, because she was there. One of the last things I did was stop at the PX at Fort Knox before I left and buy an engagement ring. I got engaged the moment I got there and we got married. I had planned on being engaged for the three years I was in law school. I gave her the engagement ring on Sunday and, Monday, she bought a wedding dress and, Tuesday, she and her mother started planning a wedding. Then, my mother got involved and said, "Oh, she's perfect, she's perfect," and I'm going, "I'm getting married in three years, not this June." Anyway, I broke it off. I ran away at spring break. My mother beat me up, I came back--I tucked my tail between my legs. I got married. My wife got pregnant on our honeymoon and our child, my son, was born the first day of spring break my second year. When spring break was over, we both went back to class. She got her PhD and I got my law degree.
WB: What is your wife's name?
BH: Claudia Tate. She's dead. She passed away in 2002. She was a professor of English and African-American literature. In fact, she taught at Howard and GW and, when she died, she was at Princeton in Africana Studies with Toni Morrison. She was a very famous writer. She wrote Black Women Writers at Work, Domestic Allegories of Political Desire. She was a very successful professor and writer and never smoked a cigarette and she developed small-cell lung cancer. It killed her in two years, in 2002.
WB: How did you meet?
BH: In eighth grade. She was in Fair Haven and that whole grouping that we knew. She used to date my best friend and I always coveted her. He went to Indiana, she went to Michigan. He dropped out of school and joined the Marine Corps and sort of took himself off track. She finished Michigan in three years. My senior year at Rutgers, she was home and that's when we started dating, and then, we got married after my first year of law school. We got divorced long before she died and I married someone else.
WB: You arrived at Harvard in November of 1969.
BH: Yes, and took my exams in December, best semester I ever had in law school. Why? Because I didn't go to the lectures, I just sat in the tank and studied.
WB: You were well-prepared.
BH: Yes, and then, I got married in June of '70 and that was Kent State and everything was closed down. [Editor's Note: On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen fired on students at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine others. Some of the students had been protesting the United States entry into Cambodia, while others had been passing nearby or observing the demonstration.] Everybody had open-book exams, but I had to take mine because I was--two things, one, I was getting married, two, I was going on my honeymoon and, three, I had to go away to summer camp with the Army, because I was already in the Army. So, I stayed there and took my exams when everybody else did theirs open-book over the summer, but I took mine because I had too much going on.
WB: How did you find Harvard and Cambridge?
BH: I loved it. The first summer, first year, I was in the dorms and she was in the dorms at the Graduate Center. We got married, and then, we became proctors in the Strauss House in Harvard Yard for the summer. Then, when she got pregnant, we moved into married student housing at Peabody Terrace and we lived there until I graduated, and then, we got separated and divorced. I had a great time, I did well. I got a job with Hale and Dorr. I was going to--Archibald Cox was my advisor and his roommate was a judge, I guess it was [John P.] Fullam, who was at the [Federal District Court of Appeals for the] Third Circuit in Philadelphia and he had the Penn Central. [Editor's Note: Harvard Law Professor and former Solicitor General of the United States Archibald Cox became the special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation in 1973 and was later fired under orders from President Nixon.] He set me up to clerk for this judge, who had been his roommate in prep school. My wife, which is another issue that we had a conflict with, was saying, "Oh, you're graduating from Harvard, I'm supposed to transfer to Penn. I don't think so." We had a huge fight. I'm going, "Look, I made the compromise--you wanted to have a kid right away," blah, blah, blah. We went back and forth about that. Anyway, as usual, I lost and I gave up my clerkship and took a job with a law firm in Boston that I didn't want to take to keep my family together. As it turned out, we ended up getting divorced anyway, because the pressures of having a kid and fighting over who can go to the library and who's going to take care of [the child], especially when you're that young--I was twenty-three when my son was born, he's forty-five now--and went like that. So, anyway, I stayed in Boston and went to this law firm, and then, we got divorced.
WB: Did you get a chance to explore either the City of Cambridge or Boston during your time there?
BH: Oh, yes, oh, yes, especially after I graduated, we were divorced. At first, I went to the  Olympics in Munich and all over Europe for the summer. I did some of the things I had wanted to do, that I was feeling I had been cramped on. Then, I got an apartment in Cambridge on Garden Street, and then, eventually, in the South End. I stayed there because she was still in graduate school. She didn't finish her PhD until '77, took forever, and then, my son was there, so, I had him every weekend. I started to date and I got to know Boston and started to go to the Cape and the Vineyard for the first time. I had a great time. Then, they moved to DC, and then, I would go to DC to visit him. Then, I moved to New York, and then, I met someone else.
WB: What branch of law did you study and did you end up practicing in?
BH: Well, I didn't study anything in particular. I was headed toward corporate and I ended up starting in the corporate real estate department at Hale and Dorr. Then, I worked for the government, US Department of Housing and Redevelopment. I had done my third-year thesis, In In-fill housing in Roxbury, which means you--there was a company called Housing Innovations, a guy named Denis Blackett. I don't know if you know him. He's still there. Anyway, he developed a housing program where, if you're in a neighborhood and you've got a dilapidated brownstone, you put in a brownstone. If it's a gabled house, you put in a gabled house. If it's an apartment building, you put in an apartment building, but you in-fill with whatever was there and you don't leave vacant, dilapidated housing there. So, I did my thesis on this with Professor Charlie Haar, who was a land-use planning professor at the Law School. That led me into the real estate department, which also led me into HUD. It was great because, after a year with Hale and Dorr, I went to HUD at a premium salary. I was making fourteen-five at Hale and Dorr, I think I went to twenty-two when I went to the government. Can you imagine leaving the private sector, going to the government and making more money? I mean, that's--no, no--but, anyway, the great thing was that at HUD, lawyers led a team. So, construction, finance, EEOC, architecture, everybody reported to the lawyer and you set stages for approval. So, a year after being out, I was dealing with people who were back in my old firm who were coming to me for approval of their projects. So, we did Charles River Park, we did Faneuil Market, I did Martha's Vineyard Hospital, which was a HUD/Hill-Burton program. It was a great experience because that was the time of the categorical grant programs, [Sections] 235, 236, 202. Those are low-income, elderly, Indian, etc. When Nixon came in, he created Section 8, where they give you credits and chits and the sex went out of the housing stuff, because, basically, the money was geared not toward subsidizing and financing the housing, but toward giving chits to the tenants. So, it was a great experience.
WB: Did you have any interactions with the Boston Housing Authority?
BH: Sure, sure, oh, yes.
WB: For the sake of the recording, I am from Boston. One of the things I heard, my grandmother or our parents would say all the time, particularly about Mattapan, Roxbury, Dorchester, and the dilapidated housing that started to show obviously, is that, "Folks do not want to invest here. They just want to wait for it all to hit a certain rock bottom, so that ...
BH: They can come and get it.
WB: ... They can come in and take it over."
BH: Yes, but that had happened in the South End even when I got there and the South End was the frontier. Now, you can't get near it, and I learned that lesson in Boston. Where I used to live in the South End, the streets are all brick now and they're gaslights and the place is beautiful. I had a brownstone that I managed for a pilot and I had a two-bedroom apartment on, like, the third floor for, like, three hundred dollars a month. I got a deal because he was always gone. He owned the building and I would manage the building. If something broke, I'd get it fixed, and then, I'd collect the rents and send them to him. So, that was a really good deal, and then, I had a lot of friends who lived on East Springfield Street. When I lived there, Jimmy Turner, who's the head of diversity now, and he worked with me in HUD, at Boeing, a couple other guys who you may know from Boston--oh, God, I can't remember everybody's name now--but it was a thriving community. Then, some of the people on that street, when I moved to New York, we all lived on the same street in Harlem, again. I came to New York and I lived for about six months on the East Side and bought a brownstone on 144th Street. Five or six other people who had been in Cambridge with us came and we were all on that street. We had a food-buying co-op, a children's play group. I developed a program, because we couldn't get financing because it was being redlined--nobody'd give us money. Through the company I worked with, we got Chemical Bank to give people mortgages to rehabilitate. So, I bought the brownstone for twenty-five thousand, I think I put the down payment on my MasterCard. It was twenty-five hundred dollars. I put maybe sixty thousand into it, lived there five years, in a corporate move, moved to Connecticut, rented it for twenty years, sold it for a million dollars. Now, the white lawyer who bought that place in '94 from me, I couldn't buy it back for ten million, corner house, five stories, twenty rooms, National Register of Historic Places, front yard, back yard, three exposed sides, because it's on the corner. It's a great house, but, I mean, I was never going to live there again and I was renting it.
WB: What year did you leave Boston for New York?
BH: '75. I stayed there three years, and then, moved to New York.
WB: What did you do when you came to New York?
BH: I took a job with a company called Continental Can, which was the largest packaging company in the world. They did beer cans and soda cans and cans for things like fruits and vegetables. We always would have a canning facility adjacent to a production facility for Coke, Pepsi, Chef Boyardee, whatever, and then, we made all of the boxes for cereals and things like that. It was the largest packaging company in the world and we innovated plastic beverage bottles, for sodas and stuff like that, that whole Pitrofsky method. So, they were headquartered right on Third Avenue, and then, I stayed there until 1980. That company, when all the companies were leaving the city to get the tax advantages of no income tax in Connecticut, that's when I moved to Connecticut.
WB: Was that a career move also?
BH: No, I moved with Continental.
BH: And Continental got taken over for its union pension plan assets and sold off into different parts. I came back into the city and went into--I first became general counsel of a petroleum products company called Northville Industries on Long Island. They were the largest transshipment and throughput company for shipping oil and selling it and trading it. Then, we built the Transisthmian Panama Pipeline. This is a private company and there is a pipeline that goes from Chiriquí Grande to Puerto Armuelles, which is through the shortest point in the Panama Isthmus. So, you'd bring a supertanker down from Alaska and you would pump it through the pipeline into a supertanker in the Gulf and take it into Houston Harbor for refinement. It was, like, two brothers owned that company and there were a hundred shares outstanding and I was their general counsel.
WB: Can you tell me, as general counsel, what were some of your responsibilities?
BH: Well, sure, I mean, you're the chief lawyer for the company, so, you do all of their legal/secretarial work for resolutions and minutes, etc., for board meetings, etc. You review all their contracts, you supervise all their outside counsel. I mean, you're talking about a very small legal department that was, like, two or three people, and then, you had--Paul Weiss was my outside counsel, which is one of the largest firms--and we had antitrust litigation. We built one of the largest development projects in Panama, using pipeline materials from Invassas Carno in France and working with the US Federal Government. I mean, it was a huge project.
WB: How long did you stay there?
BH: Probably two-and-a-half years, and then, I went to Davis Polk & Wardwell, another huge Wall Street firm, and I did municipal finance work. I was doing industrial development, revenue bond financings, all over the country. Those are the types of things where, if Nissan is building a new car manufacturing plant in Tennessee, the County of Harris would float bonds to build the facility and give them tax advantages. I was dedicated, through Davis Polk, to Morgan Guaranty Bank and I did those everywhere. I did that until '85, when the tax law changed and that whole business went away, and then, I went out on my own. I've been on my own with my own firm, just me, since 1985, yes.
WB: Why did you make the decision to go out on your own?
BH: Because I was never going to be a partner at Davis Polk. Davis Polk is one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in New York, one of the really top white-shoe firms, did excellent work. However, they never had a black partner. John W. Davis represented the Board of Education against Brown for free--are you getting a picture? I left in '85; they made their first black partner in 2000. Aren't you glad I didn't wait? [laughter] [Editor's Note: Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, decided by the US Supreme Court in May 1954, legally desegregated public schools in the United States. John W. Davis had unsuccessfully defended the "separate, but equal" doctrine before the US Supreme Court in Briggs v. Elliott (1952), one of the cases later consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education.]
WB: What are some of the challenges and benefits of now being your own firm?
BH: Well, a couple things. One, I told you I was divorced and I had my son. What I didn't tell you is that in 1980, after my first wife remarried, I commenced a custody battle in DC, because she was at Howard. She married a guy who was the head of the School of Architecture there, who was essentially giving my son hell. I came home, or I was at work one day, and I called my son. I said, "What are you doing?" "I'm doing my homework." I said, "Well, where are you?" "I'm in my bathroom." I said, "Well, why are you doing your homework in your bathroom?" "Well, I left my light on this morning and Jay took the fixture out of the ceiling." Jay was his stepfather and I said, "Wait, now, I'm sending money down there for child support. My son is a kid, left his light on and he took ... " I said, "Did you tell your mother that he took the light out?" not the bulb, he took the fixture out of there. "Yep, I told her." "And what did she say?" "Well, you shouldn't have left your light on." I said, "That's it." Through my contacts at Harvard Law School, I said, "I want the absolute best domestic relations woman lawyer. I want a woman who can put a woman on the stand and kick her in the groin and smack her upside her head. I want a woman who's sort of big and fat and looks like Golda Meir and wears big print dresses," and that was a woman named Elizabeth Goering and I hired her. I was literally flying to DC in the middle of the day and coming back and going to work on Long Island. I engaged in a custody battle for about a year and it's incredible that in 1980--and she had had custody from one to nine--I won custody. Then, I brought my son back and I was a single parent. I was at Davis Polk and I had to change my lifestyle, because I had a kid. If you're a single parent and your kid plays sports and you don't go, there's nobody there. If he's in a play and you don't go, there's nobody there. If there's a conference and you don't go, nobody's there. So, I mean, I'm always going. Even if I have to take a limo and charge it to the firm, I'm going. The real life-changing event for me was that I was doing these bond deals and I would go to work at eight in the morning and I would come home at one in the morning. I had a live-in nanny and my son was nine when I started this. I don't know if you remember, the Mianus Bridge collapsed. On Interstate 95, in Greenwich, Connecticut, around 1984, I was coming home one night. My driver--if you worked after eight o'clock, the firm took you back and forth, so [that] you didn't have to take the train--my driver, who always took me home; I'd stop and get a drink at one in the morning at some bar. I'd drink the drink and we'd talk and he'd drop me at home. I would sometimes even stop at a twenty-four-hour grocery store, because I had to get something to make a lunch for school for my son. We crossed the Mianus and we hear, "Pow," a huge collapse. We said, "What was that?" and we didn't know. We didn't stop, and then, he dropped me at home and he turned around to go back. He said, "The bridge fell after we went over it." So, the people who came after us went off the bridge, and you can look this up, trucks, cars, blah, blah, blah. [Editor's Note: The Mianus River Bridge collapsed at 1:30 AM on June 28, 1983, killing three people.]
I said to myself, "If you had gone over the bridge, the nanny would've probably stayed for a week, and then, she would've called Connecticut Child Protective Services and said, 'This guy, I haven't been paid, this guy didn't come back. Take this child, here's this house," blah, blah, blah. I said, "You've got to change your lifestyle." I said, "You need a wife, you need some security," and I changed my lifestyle. I left the firm and I started my own and I got married again. We ended up having two more kids, which is why I'm still working like this, because I have a forty-five-year-old, a twenty-six-year-old and a twenty-one year old. My baby is a senior in college. My wife stepped in, helped me raise my son. He went off to Harvard, and then, to NYU Law School, but that's what was behind it. It's great in the sense that I don't know anyone who regrets, when they get to be my age, that, "God, I should've worked more." What you regret is, your kid's pissed off because you didn't go to the big game or, "You didn't see me in the play," or you didn't do this and do that. Anyway, I always did that and, since '85, I've controlled my schedule. I could do--I mean, my son played football, basketball and lacrosse in high school and I went to every game. He played football and lacrosse in college, which means that, fall and spring, I had to travel all over New England to go to his games. I would be at Princeton and at West Point at a lacrosse game and my son would be on the field and I would be in the stands and we would be the only two black people in the stadium, because, in those days, lacrosse is not something you played as a black. So, I mean, I wouldn't change anything. I'm glad I did and it's added years to my life, too, because the other thing is that whole personality trait I was telling you about, was talking about when I was younger, I realized I don't like people telling me what to do. I had a lot of difficulty. Now that I'm older, I can remember people telling me things to do and I took it as, "This old white man's trying to tell me what to do," when they were really trying to put an arm around your shoulder and mentor you. I remember when I was at Hale and Dorr and we formed the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. One of the partners who was supervising me came and said, "You know, the firm doesn't think that you ought to form the Mass Black Lawyers. We think you guys ought to get involved with the Boston Bar," and my hair on my neck was, like, rising. He's, "The firm," and they would talk to you like, "The firm," and people who took to that got hugged and brought close. Well, if you go to the records of the Mass Black Lawyers Association, you'll see the first name that's signed on their incorporation papers is mine and I wasn't having that. I've always had to find my own way and, now, I see things a little differently, because I'm older, but, at the time, I was fit to be tied that he was trying to tell me what to do. I just wasn't having that. I wasn't going to be controlled.
WB: Is there anything that I have not asked you about that you would like to say for the record?
BH: I mean, related to Rutgers, I mean, I'm trying to think if there's any other thing that I can ...
WB: Even if it is not related to Rutgers.
BH: No, I mean, I've seen changes in my lifetime that don't make me happy. The quality of the people who were coming through Rutgers when we came through and the people that I see now, except for exceptions, like my mentee, are different. I don't think we have reproduced ourselves. The people that I can remember and their academic achievements and attitudes and the people that I looked up to when I was younger, you don't see as many of them as you do. Like, when you go to the Ivy League and you go to schools--and you're a professor, so, you know this--my daughter's there now, there are more African students at Harvard than there are African-American. There are more people who are from the Caribbean and foreign countries who just happen to be black than there are blacks from Newark and Camden and DC and Chicago. We opened doors and those doors and the opportunities that we created, unfortunately, there are better-qualified people who really do meet every standard, academically, board-wise, etc., who are going in those doors. They weren't opened with them in mind. They are black, but I have an issue with what's happening to African-Americans. It's not great.
WB: Why do you think that is?
BH: We've lost out in the culture of--there have been people who became middle-class and who moved on and done well, but, I mean, I see a lot of people who are doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs whose children don't meet their academic standards that they met and who are mediocre and are not going where their parents went. That bothers me. One of the things that Jacqueline Kennedy said and I believe in, and a lot of people say it, "If you sort of mess up your children, nothing else matters." We've got a precarious position in this country. You see the whole rap thing and the whole attitude thing and what's happening and you don't see large numbers of people striving for the same types of standards we used to have. I'll probably get beaten up for that and people will say that it's wrong, but I really see students of color from other places just knocking them dead.
WB: This is somewhat of a leading question, but I am not sure how else to phrase it--you live in the area of New York now. New York, it is widely known, has one of, if not the, most segregated public school systems in the country. If you mention a place like Newark, much has been written about the state of the Newark Schools going back to the 1970s and beyond.
BH: But, the people who came through from Weequahic and South Side, etc., when I was [young], top-notch. I mean, they were in a ghetto school, but they were being taught and they didn't require remediation. That's what I'm talking about. I mean, I'm talking about, like, if you go to my high school now and you look at the people that I was telling you about who were on the bucket list [trip]--we just came back from Africa together and all those guys are professionals--you don't see that group there anymore. It's almost like we had each other for peer group support--like, it was okay to be smart, it was okay to do your homework, it was okay to be an achiever. Now, people [say], "Why you acting white? Why are you talking like that?" I mean, that's--we've lost something, we've lost something. It's not a good thing.
WB: What is a remedy?
BH: I don't know. I mean, I really don't. I mean, I'm not certain what the answer is, but I do think that we have to think of ourselves as having value and a lot of people don't. I think we have to value each other, which we don't, and we have to value our women and our children, which we're not. What we do with each other and how we treat women and children, it's a scandal. It really is. We don't act like we love each other. We'll shoot each other in a heartbeat. That's got to change.
WB: Do you think that either politically, socially or culturally that there is something to be said for the continued opposition that black folks face in a wide range of areas in American society or not?
BH: Yes, no, we still have to fight, we still have to oppose, but the best example in the world, we were talking, since the summer began, they had a series of community forums at Rutgers in New Brunswick. Black women came and spoke out very vociferously and black men, according to the people who were there, none of them said a word. We were pushing an initiative with President Barchi--it's on our agenda for the meeting that we're having on the 26th--an initiative for black men at Rutgers, because the black women are graduating on par with whites, black men are not. Now, even worse than that, they won't ask for help. They don't seek support. They told us that there are a series of guys who have left the University because their shortfall on financial aid and need was as little as five hundred or a thousand dollars and they don't ask for support. So, we're creating an emergency fund for that, but my point is, I mean, when I was in school, on my way from class, almost a couple times a week, I would go through the financial aid office. This is before computers. They had a bulletin board of, like, maybe something new was available and I would apply for it, everything that came. I remember, the Dean called me in one day, he says, "You know, Mr. Hubbard, you have more financial aid than you have expenses." We had an hours' long discussion about my travel and entertainment budget to black conferences. He actually let me keep some of that money, so that I could go and report back on black and "spook weekend" at Yale and Princeton to the rest of the community that were here. I mean, like, everybody was proactive and I don't understand. It's not like that there aren't things out there and people just [say], "Oh, I'm short of money. I'm going home." I don't get that, I don't get it.
WB: The last thing I want to ask you about, you mentioned that you are a mentor. How long have you been doing that? Why did you start doing it? Tell me a little bit about that.
BH: Okay, that falls into several categories. One, I'm a member of 100 Black Men [of America, Inc.] and we do it in Stamford, locally, but, even two, my white fraternity has an organized mentors program that I've been a mentor in, to majority and minority students, through the fraternity,, but I try to grab every minority student that comes through my fraternity. I'm joining now with the Blacks on the Banks to create a new program. There's a new, just announced, head of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center. In the meeting we had this week, we're talking about working with him to coordinate a whole series of separate mentoring programs at Rutgers into something that he can coordinate, because they've got My Brother's Keeper, they've got Big Brothers/Big Sisters, they've got the fraternities, nationals are trying to do things, and we don't want to be all over the lot. We want to have something that's consistent. We also are now determining whether or not we have enough individual members who might do some group mentoring, where a group of professional alumni will come down and meet with a whole group of black men and talk about our careers and our needs and their problems and what they're confronting and how they feel, etc. A lot of these guys have not had men in their lives. Even when I was a single parent, my son would play on teams and there would be black guys on the teams who didn't have a father. So, I would end up buying pizza or doing something after a game and having a whole bunch of kids, instead of just mine. So, I've had a lot of experience at that and I especially like--I mean, Anthony Covington is, like, I wish he was my son. I mean, he's such a bright kid, he's done so well. I respect him so much and he's just--and there are a couple of people who've come through like that over the years, I've just sort of latched on to, because I like them. Through our church, I've got a kid who just graduated with top honors from Howard who's working for Senator [Richard] Blumenthal, who I'm mentoring who's headed towards law school and from Stamford. So, I'm all over the lot, but, I mean, if we don't do it, who will?
WB: Mr. Hubbard, I want to thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
BH: Sorry to be loquacious, but ...
WB: No, that is why I want to thank you.
---------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW-------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 9/20/2017
Reviewed by Bruce Hubbard 9/25/2017