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Hodges, Frederick

Receiving his gavel - 1964

Frederick Douglas Hodges – Order of Canada

Fred Hodges was born on 19 April 1918 in Saint John, the oldest of three boys and one girl. His family were descendants of Black Loyalists. At the age of 18 he began working at small jobs. In 1940 he started working for Canadian Pacific Railway as a freight-handler on the Saint John waterfront. In 2 July 1940 he married Olive Mildred Stewart and together they had 8 children before she passed away in 1965.

With the war ongoing Fred enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Moncton in May 1943. He trained as a radio telephone operator and served at several locations in the Maritimes including 36 Operational Training Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, Station Yarmouth and 1 Reconnaissance and Navigation School at Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Fred was discharged in January 1946, having achieved the rank of leading aircraftman.

After his release from the Air Force Mr. Hodges returned to his old job as a freight handler for Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1947 he became the first Black member of the freight handlers’ union. An active union member, in 1964 he broke new ground by being elected the president of the Saint John District Labour Council, a post he held for more than a decade .Mr. Hodges joined Winterport Lodge 797, the first Black person to do so. He would maintain his membership for more than 50 years.

In 1962, Mr. Hodges was elected as an officer of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour and in 1964, elected president of the Saint John District Labour Council. In 1969 he was elected vice-president of the Federation of Labour.

Mr. Hodges was an important figure in New Brunswick Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and was appointed to the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. He was also a director of the John Howard Society, which helped those who had come into trouble the law. There were many other organizations to which he lent his support.

In 1974, Mr. Hodges became the first Black person in New Brunswick to serve as a city councillor, becoming a member in the city of Saint John. With this he became involved in the Saint John Port Industrial Commission, whose goal was to develop the port. Fred was appointed as a representative of labour groups on the New Brunswick Labour Relations Board, as well as to a number of arbitration and conciliation boards.

In December 1981 the office of the Governor General of Canada announced that Frederick Douglas Hodges was to be made a Companion of the Order of Canada. The citation stated:

One of the first members of the Black community in Saint John, New Brunswick, to graduate from high school, he served in the Second World War and returned to become the first of his group to hold important positions on labour, educational and municipal bodies. As a member of his province's Human Rights Commission, and President of the New Brunswick Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, he has done much to further equal opportunities for minority groups.

In 1983 Fred married Eugenia Simmons.

Mr. Hodges was further recognized in 1984 with the awarding of an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of New Brunswick.

Fred Hodges died on 21 July 1999. Throughout his life he had worked to improve race relations and the rights of the ordinary person. He was a trail-blazer in many areas and was a champion of the common worker.

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Jennifer McPhoto
Jennifer McPhoto
Oct 31, 2023

Fred Hodges was not the first Black person to be elected as a city counselor in New Brunswick. Carl Howe was elected to Fredericton City Council in 1971. Also, the citation for the order of Canada has an error. Mr. Hodges was nowhere close to becoming the first Black Saint Johner to graduate high school. I have researched early Black graduates in Saint John and have them dating back to 1895 (Mr. Hodges wouldn't have graduated until the 1930's). I have been trying to have it changed for well over a year but the order of Canada team has still not changed it.

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