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Frederick P. Hibbard


The Next Generation  : Frederick P. Hibbard
From Jim Sears, April 25, 2010

He was born in Denison in the 1890s, but he left town for good at an early age. He spent his entire career in the service of his country, and his job took him to many foreign lands. He was written about in Time magazine, and his voice was heard on radio around the world. Yes, I could be speaking of Dwight Eisenhower. But those first three sentences also describe Frederick Pomeroy Hibbard, Jr. 

Born in Denison on July 25, 1894 to Frederick Pomeroy and Daisy Bacon Hibbard, Frederick P. Hibbard Jr. attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana, took his A. B. from the University of Texas, and did a year of postgraduate work at Harvard. He served in the army from 1917 to 1919 before entering the U. S. Foreign Service in 1920. His appointments included posts in Warsaw, London, Mexico City, La Paz, Prague, Bucharest, and Monrovia. 

Frederick was still in the Foreign Service when he died of an unknown illness in 1943. He was 49. His father died in 1903 at age 39 (when Fred Jr. was 9 years old). Fred Sr. is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Denison. 

You may know something about the Hibbards, who were in the drug and grocery business in early Denison. You may even be familiar with some of the facts that I have only recently unearthed about Frederick, the Foreign Service diplomat. I will share just three more tidbits that were of particular interest to me. The first is the attached article from the June 24, 1935 issue of Time. It was written in that saucy style for which the magazine has long been known, but which was especially audacious in the years before Wolcott Gibbs' famous New Yorker parody of it in 1936. My favorite example in this piece: "As Charge d'Affaires Mr. Hibbard had spent long days in polite palaver with Liberian kinkywigs, long nights swatting mosquitoes and tropical vermin." Coining disparaging terms like "kinkywigs" would mean more serious trouble for Time nowadays. 

The second item is an 1805 book once owned by Hibbard. It is now available for $3,000, with his name still on the bookplate. You can read about it and see a picture of it at

The last item is an audio clip that includes Hibbard speaking. It's from the Czech Radio archives, and the occasion was the 200th anniversary in 1932 of the birth of George Washington. The complete recording is just over five minutes long. The first four minutes are of Czechoslovakia's first president, Tomas Masaryk, speaking first in his native language and then in English. Hibbard comes in during the last minute, after Masaryk has finished.

 I know relatively little about Denison history, but some of the things I have been reading recently suggest to me that the junior high or high school might do well to consider offering the subject as an elective. Perhaps one of you could teach it.

THE CABINET: Wound Unsalted
Monday, Jun. 24, 1935

In the only foreign capital named after a U. S. President—Monrovia of Liberia— Frederick Pomeroy Hibbard, a white Texan who for 15 years has been running diplomatic errands for the U. S. State Department, last week looked into the face of a pale chocolate-colored, mustachioed little Negro and addressed him as "Your Excellency." Liberia's President Edwin Barclay visibly swelled with satisfaction. Legation Secretary Hibbard was informing him that the U.S. was, after a five year break, granting diplomatic recognition to Liberia. In Washington Secretary of State Hull also swelled with satisfaction: he had shown that the U. S. was more potent than the League of Nations.

For several reasons a bad diplomatic situation in Liberia is usually much worse than a bad situation anywhere else: 1) Political respect for 12,000,000 U. S. Negroes requires that the post of U. S. Minister to Liberia shall be held by a Negro, and having a Negro Minister, though stoutly backstopped by a white legation Secretary, does not simplify the art of diplomacy. 2) When the Secretary of State wants to send an emissary to Liberia, he is lucky if there is a ship sailing for the African West Coast within a month, luckier still if the emissary reaches Monrovia in less than another month. 3) When the emissary lands in a surf boat at Liberia's harborless capital, he finds a dirty, ramshackle tropical town whose inhabitants consist of about 100 whites, 10,000 blacks, and 1,000,000 rats, where a one-year tour of duty is considered the equivalent of three years at Warsaw or Moscow. 4) The emissary's job is to deal with a Government controlled by perhaps 20,000 purse- proud Afro-Americans (who comprise most of the "landholders of Negro blood," the only qualified voters according to the Liberian Constitution) who for the last century have never succeeded in controlling the million or more Afro-Africans who inhabit Liberia's 43,000 square miles of equatorial jungle. 5) If everything does not go well in Liberia, it is just too bad for the U. S. State Department which is held responsible by the world at large. For Liberia was founded over a century ago as a colony for freed Negro slaves from the U. S., has a Government with a President, a Senate, a House of Representatives and all other U. S. fixings. U. S. honor cannot afford to let the British from Sierra Leone or the French from the Ivory Coast step in and clean up.

During the last five years conditions in Liberia have been salt in the wounds of the State Department. The British objected that the rats in Monrovia were so bad that bubonic plague was prevented from spreading through West Africa only by the fact that it had no harbor in which ships could dock; that a smallpox epidemic ravaged the interior; that the simplest health measures were unknown and Liberia might become a focus of infection for all Africa. This the U. S. State Department could believe. In 1929 U. S. Minister William Treyanne Francis died there of yellow fever.

More serious was the charge that Liberian President Charles Dunbar Burgess King, along with his Vice President and several Cabinet members, had been profiting by having their "Frontier Guard'' raid villages of their Afro-African countrymen, torture women and chiefs, seize black bucks and sell them into slavery in French Gabun and Spanish Fernando Po. When a League of Nations Commission verified the practice. President King and his followers, on stern advice from Washington, resigned. Next Liberia, under President Edwin Barclay, defaulted on its loan of $2,250,000 from Harvey Firestone. In 1925 when rubber was $1 per Ib. the State Department had encouraged Mr. Firestone to start a huge rubber plantation in Liberia and lend the African Republic money to pay off its European and other debts. Mr. Firestone planted 55,000 acres of rubber trees, built 100 miles of road (five times as much as Liberia had ever had before), hired thousands of natives at 25 a week, gave Liberia a brief boom. Then with Depression the Liberian Congress seized the revenues set aside to service the Firestone debt. The U. S. protested that this was contrary to the Liberian Constitution. Proclamations were posted that any Liberian Supreme Court Justice who held the Act unconstitutional would be assassinated.

Since the U. S. could not stop these occurrences, the League of Nations tried. Liberia is a charter member of the League, for it had joined the Allies one day during the War when a British warship anchored off Monrovia. The League found that Liberia, besides having no health service, had no budget, no accounts, no money, that its trouble was, as Lord Cecil put it, "the incompetence of the Government and corruption—but rather more incompetence than corruption." The League offered to send Liberia a Government adviser to set things right. President Barclay proudly declined. The League threatened to expel Liberia, then looked up its own constitution, found it had no authority to do so.

Last September U. S. Diplomat Hibbard took one of the least pleasant assignments in a career which had taken him from Poland to Peru. Only difficulty he was spared was the presence of a U. S. Minister at Monrovia. Charles E. Mitchell, the last to hold that post, had been retired because of the prolonged lack of recognition of Liberia. As Charge d'Affaires. Mr. Hibbard had spent long days in polite palaver with Liberian kinkywigs, long nights swatting mosquitoes and tropical vermin. Finally he proposed a deal: Mr. Firestone would cut interest on his Liberian loan from 7% to 5%; Liberia would frown on the slave traffic, try to do some-thing about disease; Secretary Hull would grant diplomatic recognition and send Liberia a minister; President Barclay would accept a "foreign" (i. e. white) adviser.

President Barclay, sitting in his wicker rocking chair on the second-story veranda of the Executive Mansion where he daily looks down on the tall grass and tin cans in the square below, graciously accepted the offer. Mr. Hibbard privately thanked God that his job was done, hoped he would be relieved. In the U. S. hundreds of Negroes began to besiege Postmaster General Farley's lieutenants with requests to be appointed U. S. Minister Resident & Consul General to Liberia —at $10,000 per year. The State Department was so happily excited over this settlement of "the Liberian crisis" that, in the mimeographed announcement of its accomplishment, it carelessly called the President of a friendly nation Edward instead of Edwin.,9171,754906-3,00.html#ixzz0m4yKbHeh 

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