Mabel Welch Hoggard was born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1905 to Marshall and Maybelle Welch and raised in Iowa. Her grandmother had been a slave of Colonel Sam Houston; her maternal grandfather was a son of Houston and a Native American woman.
Determined to be a teacher, Hoggard attended State Teachers College in Nashville, Tennessee. While on her trip to Nashville, seventeen-year-old Hoggard had her first serious interaction with Southern racism when she boarded a bus and sat in the front only to have the driver yell, “Get to the back, nigger!” The memories of this incident would later fuel her commitment to community activism.
Hoggard graduated cum laude from Bluefield State Teacher’s College in West Virginia. She accepted a position as a teaching principal at Delbarton School in Williamson, West Virginia, where she learned the price of standing up for your rights. Threatened by dismissal, thirty-two black schoolteachers were told to kickback part of their salaries to support local authorities’ political campaigns. Hoggard rebelled and lost her job. She eventually found work in an administrative position with the local Public Housing Office.
At the close of WWII, Hoggard took the federal government examination for public interviewers and scored in the highest percentile. She was offered a job in California and stopped in Las Vegas to visit family who lived in Carver Park. They went to a banquet at the USO on Jefferson Avenue where she met Father Carmody who persuaded her to stay on as Secretary of the USO. Hoggard then applied to teach at the city’s all black Westside School. In 1946 she was the first black teacher in Las Vegas.
Hoggard could not escape the racism of the postwar years that reignited the Civil Rights Movement. Las Vegas was referred to as the Mississippi of the West for its de facto practices of white-only rules. For example, when a national teachers organization held its conference in Las Vegas, black teachers, including Hoggard, were denied admittance because of the hotel’s discriminatory, whites-only policy.
Hoggard is recognized for her contributions to the community, especially in education. She was University of Nevada, Las Vegas Distinguished Nevadan, Woman of the Year for numerous clubs, and has received honors from the NAACP, American Red Cross, Zion Methodist Church, Wesleyan Service Guild and the Clark County Classroom Teachers Association.
For further biographical information:
Florence McClure, “Herstory – Mabel Hoggard,” Soroptimist International of Greater Las Vegas Mentor (Winter 1997), 6. Florence McClure Collection, Lied Library, UNLV.
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