William DeHart Hubbard was born in Walnut Hills on November 25, 1903, the first of eight children. His middle name honored Andrew DeHart, principal of the school recently named after Frederick Douglass. The name indicates the esteem in which the neighborhood held the school; Hubbard in fact dropped the William went by DeHart throughout his career. When the time for school came the boy went to Frederick Douglass.
DeHart Hubbard was always the fastest runner in his class. Before he finished the eighth grade at Douglass he had a citywide reputation. At Walnut Hills High School, he continued to be a star. Douglass paid rare tribute in its commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the 1911 building with a picture and a caption beginning “DeHart Hubbard is the community’s premiere athlete.” Along with his many cups, medals and ribbons, the shout out noted: “In addition his general average for three years in high school is above ninety.” During his senior year at Walnut Hills he was turning in times competitive with college track champions.
In the days before we think of big money in sports, a graduate of the University of Michigan hatched a plan to recruit Hubbard. One of the Cincinnati newspapers ran a contest promising $3000 scholarships to the ten high school students who brought in the largest number of new subscriptions. The Michigan alumnus ran a nationwide campaign to add subscribers in Hubbard’s name. The campaign succeeded in placing him in the top ten and secured a place at Michigan.
Hubbard dominated the Big Ten in sprints and the long jump in his sophomore year, winning a place on the US Olympic team in 1924. He was allowed to compete only in the long jump. On the ship to France he wrote his mother to tell his father “I’m going to do my best to be the FIRST COLORED OLYMPIC CHAMPION.” True to his word, he won his event, the first African American to take an individual gold medal. Returning to Michigan he continued his winning ways: he tied the world record in the 100 yard dash, and broke the world record in the long jump.
DeHart Hubbard returned to Cincinnati after he graduated, with honors, from Michigan. He joined the Cincinnati Recreation Commission as the supervisor of the Department of Colored Work, serving his community in that capacity until 1941. That year he became the manager of Valley Homes, a housing project built for war workers in Lincoln Heights. Lincoln Heights was at the time the largest self-governing Black community in the country. (After the war Valley Homes was the only such project where African American buyers purchased homes built as part of the war effort.) In 1942 he moved to Cleveland to serve as the Racial Relations Adviser for the Federal Housing Authority, a position he held until his retirement in 1969. He died in 1976.