DEARBORN — In a unanimous vote, the Dearborn City Council voted to remove former Mayor Orville Hubbard’s name from the ballroom inside of the Ford Performing Arts Center.
Hubbard served as mayor from 1942 until 1978, was the city’s longest-serving mayor and was known as a segregationist.
The city’s slogan “Keep Dearborn Clean” was thought up by him and is regarded as a dog-whistle for keeping the city White. He admitted it was designed to keep out the “Negro invasion of Dearborn.”
Councilwoman Erin Byrnes headed the committee that took on the initiative to remove Hubbard’s name.
“Dearborn is proactively looking to demonstrate inclusivity and a welcoming approach to everything we do, and that’s important to me,” Byrnes said. “In that sense, any name that we choose to put in a place of honor or allow to stay in a place of honor needs to be inclusive and welcoming.”
Hubbard’s statue was removed from in front of the Dearborn Historical Society over the summer of 2020 and had previously been moved away from in front of City Hall in September 2015. At that time, City officials said the Hubbard statue had to be moved because it no longer owned the property and City Hall, selling it in 2013 to Artspace, which developed artist lofts on the site. The Dearborn Historical Commission voted unanimously that summer to move it to the museum.
Opened in 2001, The Ford Community and Performing Arts Center (The Center) is owned by the city, but naming rights were given to Ford Motor Co. The ballroom can hold up to 800 people and has been used for weddings, holidays, family functions and political events.
“I see the ballroom as a community gathering space, one where diverse groups of people, people from all backgrounds, all walks of life, come together, to be in community and to celebrate wonderful moments,” Byrnes said. “It serves a wide variety of functions and at its core it’s a community gathering space; and so I think it’s important that the name on that space really reflects a sense of community and unity ultimately.”
Byrnes also said that the removal of Hubbard’s name is an effort to match the city’s growth.
“This renaming is about evolving, it’s not about erasing the past or anyone’s existence,” Byrnes said. “It’s really about reflecting on the evolution of our city and our community. I always say Dearborn is so much more than a city; it really is a community and I think that is our number one strength.”
Hubbard suffered a stroke in 1974 and served his 15th term in a wheelchair. He died in 1982 at the age of 79.
The ordering and installation of a new sign for the ballroom is estimated to take about a month.
Byrnes said the City Council has no plans yet to rename other properties in the city that carry Hubbard’s name.
The Dearborn City Council meets again on Feb. 9.