Volume 4 , Number 8, Summer 1972
(White River Valley Historical Society) April 30, 1972
Claude Hibbard had a long, successful career here as county superintendent of schools. It was often said that he knew practically every child in this large county.
Many hundreds of difficult decisions had to be made during these years. Lots of these were serious controversiesfor in those days the county superintendent was called upon to take a very active and a very important part in the life of the county. There were tax levy problemscontroversies about hiring and dismissing teachersviolent feelings, sometimes, about disciplining of pupils and a bout school election developments throughout the county. There would still be deep resentments, I feel, that do not now exist, had it not been for him.
After his career as classroom teacher and county superintendent, he was appointed State Supervisor of Schools in Southwest and Central Missouri. He is still a legend in the State Department of Education, for his uniqoe personality and his orginal, creative, effective work as State Supervisor. There were bitter differences of opiniok in many communities concerning the consolidation of school districts. There was strong feeling and competition about the approval of school bus routes. Its remarkable how he came through those years with the amost unanimous respect and good will of the people he dealt with.
I feel, that one of Hibbards finest contributions was in the attitude building he did in the many hundreds of talks he made at county teachers conventions, county school board meetings, Sunday School and other religious meetingscommunity meetings galore.
Some might question whether we should list among his educational contributions the things so many of us learned individually by observing his methods. Personally, I think it is one of the chief contibutions he made. For instance, I recall the days when there was much talk and were even court trials about the selling of jobs by school board members. It seemed to be serious in some areas. But I have heard him discuss the matter in school board conventions with such tactwith such enthusiastic description of what high quality board members can do for their communities that it must have been difficult for any board member to conclude, "Nevertheless, I am going to ask $75 from a teacher before I vote for him." He knew an appeal to their ideals and true sense of service would be more effective with the small percent who needed it than would a tirade against the dishonesty of the practice.
One day I went into the court house to see him about something. He was talking with a woman who had an extremely displeasing
personality. But she was treated with as much courtesy, understanding, and kindness as if she had been Miss America or Mrs. Nixon. What a lesson, I thought at the time, and still think so, as to treating with equal consideration all persons-regardless of the shortcomings they might have. There are other thines I have profited from observing his attitudes and proceduresand I am confident there are several here who could give personal testimony. So much for a brief listing of some of his educational contributions.
Another quality he had was an unusual amount of political ability. Some of us know how frequently he was called on by county and city school administrators and others to help get school legislation passed in Jefferson City. They knew how effective he could be. More than most people he could see personal and political relationships in state, district, and county politics. I believe he even enjoyed the difficult county and area politics it was necessary for him to take part in.
Hibbard could find humor in practically every situation. Ray Evans told me once of visiting schools in the east part of this county one spring when Hibbard was running for County Superintendent. A hound dog was crossing the road when Hibbard, honking the horn, steered the car directly at the dog, yelling, "Get out of the way you danged old hound." Ray asked, "Whats got into you, Hibbard?" and the reply was, "Its okay, Ray, were about a mile over the line in Howell County now."
Hibbard was a ladys man. Maybe you dont like that comment. But he was a ladys man; because they universally liked and respected him. He was also a childs man-and; if I ever knew a mans man it was Claude Hibbard. Many times I have noticed the inspiriting result of Hibbards joining a group of men.
Hibbard was very much a family man. The intense enjoyment he had from his home life-the members of the family, the garden, the livestock and family activities.
One of the things he is remembered for by his associates is his compulsion for practical jokes. I have experienced more than my share and some of you have suffered and laughed likewise. One experience I remember is while driving from Springfield one night through the Seymour area. Hibbard, Floyd Curnutt, and Emmett Norman were in the back seat. It was dark and I could not see what was going on. I didnt know then that two or three men swaying their bodies in unison from one side to the other could make it seem that the car was uncontrollably weaving on the highway. Twice I got out and climbed under the car with a flashlight, thinking the frame of the car was coming apart and was about to do so a third time when Floyd Curnett could no longer choke back his laughter.
Claude Hibbard did his full share of dreaming-but more than most people he put his dreams into actionIn school affairs, in community and area developments. A good example I think, is the Fox-Trotting Assobiatiok. I have heard it said that Hibbard more than any other one person was responsible for the formation of the American Fox-Trotting Association.
Hibbard had a way of saying things so youd remember. A friend told me of going once to a national political meeting with Hibbard and some White River Valley friends. On the train, on the way home, they were coming through Jasper County at 2:00 or 3:00 oclock in the morningweary and groggy. Someone asked, "Hibbard, if you had just one wish, what would it be?" "Thats easy," was the sleepy reply. "Id like to be in bed down in Douglas Countyright between Bertha and Blanche." For you who have raised your eyebrows, Bertha and Blanche are rural Post Offices in Douglas County.
A quality of which Hibbard is universally remembered is his keen sense of humorincluding the ability to laugh at himself. I heard him tell about going to Kansas one summer when he was a teenager to work for a wheat farmer. At the end of the first month he was paid and went to town. He bought a fancy cowboy hat, real cowboy chaps, shiny boots, and spurs. When Saturday afternoon came he borrowed a large mule from the farmer and dressed in all his finery started into town. As he rode past two small boys sitting by the side of the road, he heard one of them say to the other, "Man, just look at that cowboy." His pride was dashed to the ground, however, Hibbard reported, when the other boy replied, "Cowboy, Hell! Whoever saw a cowboy riding on a mule?"
Hibbard was one of the Ozarks most effective story tellers. What a collection it would be if all of us here repeated the incidents weve heard him tell. I hope some member of the Hibbard family will sometime write the story of his life.
Ive wondered what goes into the making of a man like Hibbard. How fine if we had a recipe; for the country could use a good number of such persons.
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