• Clayton Hamerski

Dr. Hubert Eaton: Wilmington Civil Rights Leader

As December draws near, I want to take a moment to reflect on the life of one of the greatest Wilmingtonians of all time; Dr. Hubert Eaton, who would be celebrating his 103rd birthday on December 2nd. Dr. Eaton was a pioneer of civil rights leadership who took drastic, courageous action to correct the injustices that he found in his home, Wilmington, North Carolina.


Hubert Eaton was a medical doctor and nationally ranked tennis player best known for leading the charge in desegregating New Hanover County Schools in 1971, along with the local YMCA. Eaton and his wife Celeste took in a young Althea Gibson and raised her during her high school years, and provided her the guidance that would later allow her to go on and win Wimbledon and the US Open.

In 1952, Dr. Eaton ran for New Hanover County Board of Education; it was the first time that an African American had run for office since the events of 1898.


In 1984, Dr. Eaton published his autobiography entitled "Every Man Should Try," which detailed his battle to end Jim Crowism in New Hanover County, and fight the injustices of segregation.

The book opens with the scene that sparked Dr. Eaton's activism. On an occasion that he had to testify in court as a medical doctor, he was made to swear an oath on a separate Bible marked "Colored". Eaton wrote;

"There were measly black schools, segregated hospitals, segregated tennis courts, all-white government, segregated libraries, and segregated Bibles."

"Every Man Should Try," like Eaton's legacy, is an incredibly important part of Wilmington's history. If you are a resident of Wilmington, I highly recommend that you read it.


Photos from From "Every Man Should Try" Hubert Eaton, 1984

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