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