TAYLOR, HOBART T., SR.
TAYLOR, HOBART T., SR. (1890–1972). Hobart T. Taylor, Sr., entrepreneur, millionaire, and political and civic leader, was born in 1890 in Wharton, Texas, to Millie (Wright) and Jack Taylor. After finishing high school in Wharton in 1913, Hobart furthered his education at Paul Quinn College and at Prairie View A&M, and was captain of the Prairie View baseball team in 1917. Upon graduation, he worked for Standard Life Insurance Company of Atlanta and was one of the first salesmen to write $1 million worth of business in a single year; the Great Depression, however, drove the company out of business. Jack Taylor's father, Andrew, was a former slave, a landowner, and an entrepreneur, who, with Jack, had accumulated 2,000 acres of farmland in Fort Bend and Wharton counties by the time he died in 1895. Before Jack died, he told his son Hobart that he should pursue business interests in Houston but that he should also always keep the land. Following his father's advice, Taylor subsequently sought business opportunities in Houston, where he obtained a taxicab franchise in 1932. Segregation laws, however, required whites and blacks to ride in separate cabs, so Taylor's taxi business restricted itself to black neighborhoods. The unpaved streets in these areas broke down the cabs more quickly, so Taylor submitted to Chrysler Motor Company a design for a car that would provide more air for the motor and that would have special cushions; these improvements would, he hoped, make the vehicles last longer. As black mobility increased by World War II, so did the taxi business, and by the 1970s, the business was worth millions. Also by then, Taylor had acquired much more land, which he later resold for two or three times what it had cost him. By the 1980s some of the land still held by family members was dotted with oil wells.
In addition to his lucrative business interests, Taylor was also active in political and civic work. He personally financed a United States Supreme Court case that affirmed the right of blacks to vote in Texas Democratic party primaries. He was also a delegate to the 1944 Democratic National Convention, the first black delegate from a southern state since Reconstruction. Taylor was a leader in the campaign to eliminate the poll tax (see ELECTION LAWS). Several political figures in high office were among his close friends, including Lyndon Baines Johnson and mayors of Houston. To Johnson he introduced his son, Hobart, Jr., who later became Johnson's legal aide in the White House and who was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as executive vice chairman to the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity before becoming Johnson's associate special counsel to the President. Hobart, Sr., taught men's Bible classes at the Wesley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He also worked with the United Negro College Fund for more than twenty years and was one of its largest contributors. His first wife was Charlotte Wallace, with whom he had one son before they divorced. He later married Virginia Dunlap of Indianapolis. Hobart Taylor, Sr., died on December 5, 1972, in Houston.
Andrew Webster Jackson, A Sure Foundation and a Sketch of Negro Life in Texas (Houston, 1940). Louie Robinson, Jr., The Black Millionaires (New York: Pyramid, 1972). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.