Richmond Pearson Hobson

Richmond Pearson Hobson was born on August 17, 1870, at the family plantation, Magnolia Grove, in Greensboro, Alabama. One of seven children, he was initially tutored at home and then enrolled in Greensboro’s Southern University (now Birmingham-Southern College) at the age of 12 (twelve!). After graduation in 1885, he won an appointment to the United States Naval Academy and at the age of 15 (fifteen!) was the youngest midshipman in his class.

He distinguished himself as a skilled orator and student and graduated first in his class. In 1893, after serving in the Navy and learning about naval design, Hobson was appointed Assistant Naval Constructor at the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Construction and Repair in Washington, DC. There, he supervised the construction of new naval vessels across the nation; he would later advocate for the removal of all woodwork on ships because it was such a fire hazard.

As a naval officer and later a congressman, Hobson consistently championed America’s need to achieve naval supremacy to protect America’s physical security and to safeguard the nation’s economic interests, particularly in Asia and South America. He thought that a strong navy would provide America with the power and influence to maintain world peace.

Size of the US Navy in 2019
  • 336,978 active duty personnel
  • 279,471 civilian employees,
  • 101,583 ready reserve personnel
  • 290 deployable ships (as of 2019) of 480 total ships
  • 3,900+ Dept. of Navy manned aircraft combined

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One of Hobson’s close friends was the inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla served as the best man in Hobson’s 1905 wedding. In later years, Hobson was the only person who was able to persuade Tesla to interrupt his intellectual pursuits for a movie gathering.

Nikola Tesla

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For nearly three decades, Hobson’s most consuming cause became banning alcohol and narcotics. He approached prohibition as a moral crusade, believing that alcohol consumption impeded the proper, progressive course of human development and evolution by weakening intellectual capabilities. In 1908, he campaigned for a prohibition amendment in Alabama, which once passed made the state dry before the nation embraced the prohibition of alcohol. In 1919, Hobson authored Alcohol and the Human Race, in which he argued that alcohol was a cause of human degeneracy. After the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, Hobson turned his attention to launching a world-wide prohibition campaign and raising awareness on the evils of narcotics, particularly heroin. Although his anti-narcotics campaign never gained the momentum that the American prohibition campaign had, Hobson presided at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1931 at which 57 countries agreed to limit the production of opium.

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Published by Catherine Brown

Born in Texas and raised in Alabama. Love learning about history and all the lessons that it can teach us...

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