Dr. HugerJames Ermine Huger, Sr. was born in Tampa, Florida on January 4, 1915, to Reverend Thomas Albert and Rosetta Williams Huger. Huger came to Daytona Beach when he was in eighth grade earning his high school diploma and associate’s degree at Bethune-Cookman College. After B-CC, Huger attended West Virginia State College where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree. Huger eventually earned his Master of Science Degree from the University of Michigan. Upon graduating from West Virginia State College, Mary McLeod Bethune helped Huger get a job in the War Department where he worked for three months before she asked him to come work at Bethune-Cookman College. Later, Huger served as business manager of the school for more than 40 years.

In 1941, while working at B-CC, Huger was drafted into the Marine Corps becoming one of the first black Marines. He served as a Montford Point Marine until 1949 and trained at the Montford Point facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Huger was promoted until he reached the highest rank as a non-commissioned officer: Sergeant Major. In the same year, August 23, 1941, Huger married his wife Phannye Brinson whom he met while he was a sophomore at B-CC. Jimmy and Phannye were married for 67 years until her death in March of 2009.

After the war, Mrs. Bethune asked Huger to run the United Negro College Fund in Washington D.C. After this assignment, she persuaded Huger to come back and work fulltime at Bethune-Cookman College. Huger was very active in the community. He was a member of the Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church for over 65 years and served as Charge Lay Leader. Huger was appointed to the Urban Renewal Advisory Board for the City of Daytona Beach. Huger became the city’s first black elected official when he was elected city commissioner in 1965 and served in this position until 1971. He was also the first black to serve on the Volusia County council and held office from 1973 to 1978 and served as chairman in 1975 and 1978. Huger also served as the city’s community development director from 1976 to 1994.

Additionally, Huger served as a Trustee Emeritus on the Bethune-Cookman University Board of Associate Trustees, Associate Trustee of Halifax Health, President of the Board of Stewart Marchman Center, Board Member of The Rape Crisis Center, and Board Member of Florida Health Care. Huger participated in numerous other organizations including the Daytona Beach International Speedway Checkered Flag Committee, The Association for Retarded Citizens, The Division of Blind Services, The Florida League of Cities, NAACP, Governor’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, HOPE House, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, The Elks, the American Teachers’ Association, Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Committee of 100.

Huger was also involved in his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. He was the executive director for Alpha Phi Alpha and in 2009, he was awarded the Alpha Award of Merit, the fraternity’s highest honor bestowed upon a member of the organization Furthermore, Huger is credited with integrating Daytona Beach’s municipal golf course and contributed to The Halifax Associates Membership Handbook and the Disaster Preparedness Guidebook for Community Development Professionals. Huger died at the age of 101 on October 14, 2016, at the Halifax Medical Center. The following interview with Jimmy Huger was conducted in 2013.

Text Only Transcript Selections:

Mrs. Bethune’s Vision

When Mrs. Bethune came, she started out with the idea that she wanted Bethune-Cookman College at that time to be a part of the community rather than apart from the community, and with our being segregated as we were we were apart from the community. We were not…no one had ever been elected as a part of the city of Daytona Beach. It was not until someone decided to bring in urban renewal which was just starting in the country and try to upgrade the living conditions of black people that we got involved. Dr. Moore who was then the president of Bethune-Cookman was the first black person to be appointed to a committee, and that committee was the Civic League.”

How Mrs. Bethune shaped my life

When I was in my freshman year of college I got a chance to get a job over at a hotel on the beach, and I dropped out of school. No one knew that but my roommate, and that evening… I would have…I worked that afternoon for the first time, but I had a job on campus, and I couldn’t do the job on campus because I was working over at the hotel. My roommate went to do the job on campus, and he said…he said he was there for Huger. They said, “Well, where’s Huger?” He said, “I’m not sure,” and he wouldn’t tell them where I was. So, they carried him to Mrs. Bethune, and when Mrs. Bethune got through with him he told her where I was. And I had worked that afternoon. It was about a little after six o’clock. I had to go to bed because we had to be right up first thing the next morning. And I had gotten…had supper, cleaned up, put on the bottom of my pajamas. I was in the bed reading and someone knocked on the door. And I called out, “Come on in, baby. The door’s open.” But when the door opened in walked Mrs. Bethune. Well, I almost died. I fell out of the bed. I didn’t get out of the bed; I fell out of that bed. Anyhow, Mrs. Bethune started lecturing. What I didn’t know was the young man who brought her to my room went down the hall and told everybody Mrs. Bethune is down in Huger’s room which was unheard of. So, people started coming down there and standing right there listening to Mrs. Bethune and she was fussing at me. So, she said, “Huger, why didn’t you tell me you were going to do this?” So, I said, “Mrs. Bethune, I’m grown now.” You know, I had finished high school. “I’m grown now.” I said, “I didn’t feel I needed to bother you with this. I can do it on my own.” Well, what did I say that for? She walked with a cane, and I expected her to take that cane and start beating me over my head with it. She told me she said, “Don’t you ever tell me you’re grown until you get an education. You get a decent job and you’re making some money,” and by this time there were a half a dozen people in there…in the room including the…my boss man. And she said, “Pack your things. We’re getting…you’re getting out…” So, I told her I couldn’t go because he didn’t have anyone to do my job in the morning. I introduced him to her. Well, I never will forget when she extended her hand he bowed, and he bowed so low I wasn’t sure he was ever gonna straighten up again. But Mrs. Bethune at that time, and all if the other times, was held in high esteem by everybody. She was something else. She started talking, and I told…when I told her I couldn’t go he said, “Mrs. Bethune, that’s true. I don’t have nobody to do the job in the morning at seven o’clock, but as soon as he gets through at twelve o’clock I will see personally that he gets back to school.” She said, “No, you won’t.” She said, “He’s going back to school now,” and she made…gave him a telephone number. He called the guy and the guy came over the next morning to take that job, but I had to pack my things and leave then. But Mrs. Bethune made a statement that lived with those of us who heard it the rest of our lives. She said, “Huger, the situation we live in today will not last always. Opportunities are gonna come by because there’s gonna be changes made, but you are not going to be taking advantage of any of those opportunities. You know why? Because you won’t have an education, and you possibly be working at somebody’s hotel, but I’m going to personally see that that doesn’t happen. Now, get up, get your clothes on, and let’s get out of here.” And she made me come back to school, and as I said followed me all the way through until she died. She was responsible for my getting…finishing college. She was responsible for my getting jobs all the way through. She was responsible for me being elected the first black citizen in Daytona Beach to make city commissioner and as a result of that the first black person to be elected as county councilman for the county of Volusia and the second black person to be involved in all the other organizations in town as a result of Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune who was determined that she was going to make something out of me.”

Urban Renewal

Okay. Now, what was the…could you tell us the community’s feelings toward urban renewal?
“It was mixed, really; because a lot of black people were moved out of their dilapidated housing and moved into houses that they’ve moved white people out that was fairly better than what they were living in, and that’s how they got the term urban removal...or black removal, rather than urban renewal. A lot of black businesses, a lot of black activities, were done away with as a result of urban renewal.”

“Now, what is the single…single most dramatic change that you think urban renewal brought to Second Avenue?”

“Flushing toilets to be honest with you, was the most important thing that ever happened down there. But we had…we got…finally got paved streets. We got lights. We got signal lights. We got houses. People moved out of dilapidated houses into first-class housing. Not first-class necessarily, but better houses than what they had been living in.”

Mrs. Bethune

“I told Mrs. Bethune the reason I wanted to be an actor was because they were the best-dressed people around and always had pretty women around them. Well, I was being honest, but Mrs. Bethune didn’t look at it like that. Everybody at the table started laughing. Mrs. Bethune said to my father, “When this young man finishes high school, send him to Bethune-Cookman College where we will straighten him out.” Well, she spent the rest of her life straightening me out.”

For more information, contact (fordj@cookman.edu)