Statue of segregationist former Dearborn mayor taken by his family
Dearborn — The statue of Orville Hubbard, Dearborn's longest-serving mayor, and a man whose outspoken segregationist policies put the city on the map as one particularly hostile to blacks, was removed Friday from the grounds of the Dearborn Historical Museum and is in the possession of his family — and may be en route to Union City, Hubbard's hometown.
"The statue had been a divisive symbol rather than a unifying one," Mary Laundroche, spokeswoman for Dearborn, said in a statement. "The fact that the Hubbard family was able to move it out of Dearborn now — something they had wanted to do since 2015, when the statue was removed from the former City Hall campus — is a positive development for our community. It will allow our message to be better heard that Dearborn is committed to being a welcoming place for people of goodwill from all backgrounds."
The statue had been placed prominently for decades on Michigan Avenue, outside of the old Dearborn city hall building. It was pulled down in Sept. 2015, after the municipal building was sold, and was given a new home at the historical museum at 915 Brady.
That changed on Friday. The day prior, someone placed a Black Lives Matter shirt on Hubbard's statue, the Detroit Metro Times reported.
Ralph Strong, 83, has been supervisor of Union Township since the late 90s, said the Hubbard family has contacted township officials about placing the statue at Hubbard's gravesite at Riverside Cemetery. Union City, Strong said, sits entirely within Union Township.
The Hubbard family is believed to have the space for the statue, and there's nothing in the ordinance book to stop it, Strong said.
"With what he's got there, he can have it. It's true, it's been approached, and there's been a process about (setting) the foundation."
Strong added: "I don't want to start any controversy, or anything like that. Politics are bad these days."
Township clerk Sharon Boley said "it's just a matter of time and money," and figuring out "how big the foundation has to be," but that nothing is set in stone.
"It's quite the project," Boley said. "We've never done a statue like this."
But Terri Orris, formerly a township clerk herself, visited the site Saturday and said she does not believe there is room for a statue.
"You cannot put a monument on top of people," Orris said. "This isn't about who is he, you just can't do it."
When the statue was moved to the museum in March 2017, to coincide with Hubbard's birthday, Mayor John O'Reilly said in a statement that "Orville Hubbard was mayor from 1942 through 1977, which is a long time ago, and also a long time for someone to have served in the same public office."
O'Reilly added that "the historical museum is the appropriate site to acknowledge his place in Dearborn’s history.”
"For years, the Hubbard family has claimed ownership of the statue, and the city is supportive of that claim," Dearborn's statement continued. "The family has always expressed their intention of moving the statue outside of Dearborn, and it is our understanding that the move is imminent."
The city said it does not own the statue, which it says was "commissioned through a private campaign and funded with donations."
The removal of the Hubbard statue comes at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is on the resurgence nationally, prompting the government bodies to pull down symbols of the bad old days — from the confederacy in Virginia to police brutality in Philadelphia — when public officials argued openly that they did not matter.
“(Hubbard) was a complicated person,” David L. Good, a former Detroit News editor and Dearborn Historical Commission chairman who wrote a book on Hubbard, told The News in 2015, when the statue was removed from Michigan Avenue.
“He wasn’t just a segregationist. In many respects, he was a very good mayor and did a lot of good things for the city. ... He got the streets cleared of snow and leaves. He had a wonderful recreation system, parks and pools, Camp Dearborn and the senior citizens apartment building in Clearwater, Florida," Good said.
Attempts to reach the Hubbard family were unsuccessful.