A Black History Story

In September, 1944, The Franklin Times published an obituary on its front page for a printer who, after moving from Noblesville, Indiana, died while employed as a pressman for the newspaper. Fred Hord’s long service to the paper was written in a respectful and complimentary way, and I cannot help but think that an African-American being lauded on the cover of a Franklin, Indiana newspaper would have been an unusual event.
Fred Hord was a nine year-old in 1885 when he was admitted to the Indiana Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home in Knightstown, Indiana. Fred’s father, John Hord, served in “the war of 1861,” in Company D, of the 8th Regiment of the U. S. Colored Infantry. Fred was orphaned when his father died in 1884, and his step-mother was unable to care for him. Fred learned the printing trade in the orphanage, good work with his hands that he shared with his son, Earl. Earl Hord became an accomplished printer in the Indianapolis area, including stints with the Indianapolis Recorder, but in 1932, from his south Keystone Avenue home, began a letter-writing campaign to the managing editor of one of the nations’s largest newspapers targeted to the African-American community. Earl finally convinced the paper to hire him, and moved his family to Pittsburgh, Penn. Earl retired from The Pittsburgh Courier after having risen from the hot type of the press, through sales manager and advertising manager positions, to general manager. Hord shared the family’s business trade with at least one of his sons, Edgar Vaughn Hord; I was introduced to Edgar by his daughter, whom I met as a freshman in high school, and married four years later.
Despite my divorce from my bride, I am still a part of the family I joined in 1969. In August, 2016, I attended the Hord family’s reunion in Pittsburgh, Penn. Not for the first time, I noted the family’s great passion for education: Among that great tumbling crowd of Hords were educators, physicians, and lawyers, and it was then that I learned of the Hord Foundation. In 1993, Noel Hord — my former father-in-law’s cousin — started the Hord Foundation with his wife, Cora, in Danbury, Conn. Education had played a key role in the couple’s success, and they wanted to give back to their community in a special and significant” way. The Hords decided to provide scholarships for the education of deserving and disadvantaged youth, specifically, young people of African-American descent. To date, the foundation has awarded scholarships totaling almost $4,000,000.00.
On the Hord Foundation’s Web site, there is a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Educate your sons and daughters, send them to school and show them that beside the cartridge box, the ballot box and the jury box, you have also the knowledge box.” In September, 1843, Frederick Douglass, the former slave and ardent abolitionist, was assaulted by a mob in Pendleton, Indiana. Douglass returned to Noblesville, Indiana in 1880, where he was received with civility and celebration. Noblesville was the town where Fred Hord first practiced his craft, and where he began to teach the son, who taught his son, who became my friend.
In February, we observe Black History Month, a time to recognize the contributions of African-Americans to the country’s greatness. Standing among the names of Crispus Attucks, Harriet Tubman, Douglass; Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I add to the roll, John Hord, a Union soldier from Indiana, whose son, Fred, learned to work with his hands, and passed down through those hands a passion for education to Earl, and to Edgar, and me.