Fred Hodges was a trailblazer on many levels. Son of Lloyd and Drusilla Oliver, he was descendant of Black Loyalists who arrived in New Brunswick in the 1780s.
During the 1940s he began working as a freight handler for the Canadian Pacific Railway. During the Second World War he served in Nova Scotia as a radio-telephone operator for the Royal Canadian Air Force. 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 . He also served as a vice-president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. Mr. Hodges’ social activism extended well beyond the labour movement to include human rights, civil liberties, the John Howard Society, cooperatives and the fight against the death penalty. He was an important member of the New Brunswick Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. He served all New Brunswickers with his appointment to the provincial Human Rights Commission and was honoured with the Order of Canada, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and an honourary degree from the University of New Brunswick. In addition to being the first African Canadian to be elected to the city council, Fred Hodges was also the first member of a visible minority to serve in this role. He was also a strong promoter of Saint John, where he was elected as a Common Councillor in 1974. By virtue of his civic duties he was involved in the Saint John Port Industrial Commission, an economic development body. His experience was recognized by his appointment as a labour representative to the New Brunswick Labour Relations Board and on a number of conciliation and arbitration boards.
(Photo courtesy of George Vair)