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Hugh O’Brian’s Legacy

Published in the June Guns Magazine was an article titled "Was Wyatt Earp Hero or Heel?" by Hugh O'Brian. It was, however, actually written by my husband, Dr. Herbert O. Brayer who was at that time author of the NBC television series Frontier and the western editor of Guns Magazine.

Herb met O'Brian when their careers were in "full swing," and they remained friends until Herb’s death in 1984. Recently I received a letter from O'Brian who won lasting fame by starring in the television series "The Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp" which began in 1955 and ran for seven years.

However, his real life's work began in 1958 following a nine-day visit to Africa where he was a volunteer for Dr. Albert Schweitzer and his famed jungle clinic, passing out medicine and doing odd jobs. O'Brian had long admired the great humanitarian and remembers their evening discussions in which Schweitzer, then 83, recipient of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of the "brotherhood of nations," expressed his concern about global peace prospects. The League of Nations had failed, the United Nations seemed shaky and Schweitzer was convinced that the United States was the only country in the world with the ability to bring about peace.

"He said the United States must take a leadership role," O’Brian recalls, "or we are a lost civilization." It was an unforgettable nine days. At the moment of parting, Schweitzer took O’Brian’s hand and asked, "What are you going to do with this?"

O'Brian pondered the question — recognized the need to do something useful with his life — and came up with the concept of motivating tomorrow's leaders today. He founded the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation (HOBY) to show high school students at the 10th grade level the realities of what makes America today. "We accomplish this," he said, "through interactive question and answer sessions with today's leaders who are on the firing line in business, government, science, education and the professions. I call it "preventive medicine," inspiring sophomores while they still have two years left in high school to accept responsibility, redirect themselves and motivate their classmates."

Each spring HOBY conducts 90 leadership training workshops for 10th graders in each of our 50 states, Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas. HOBY's selection process begins each September when the National Association of Secondary School principals send HOBY nomination materials to all public and private schools in the United States. Every 10th grader is eligible and encouraged to apply. There is no cost to students, school or parent. All schools, regardless of size or location have the opportunity to select their outstanding sophomore leaders to attend a three-day "HOBY experience" at the state level. All HOBY programs are funded entirely by the private sector. At the conclusion of these 90 HOBY leadership development seminars each volunteer committee selects two students, a boy and a girl, to represent that area of the state to attend HOBY’s "Super Bowl" of seminars, an all-expenses paid week-long trip to the World Leadership Congress (WLC). At the WLC this select group of high school sophomores representing every corner of America meets with their peers who have also been selected to represent 35-45 other countries. At the WLC these bright students interface with renowned panelists in leadership positions from around the world in question and answer seminars on a great variety of topics ranging from international trade, entrepreneurship, energy, culture, education, communications, government and medicine in the 21st century.

In July of 1996 the WLC was held in Houston, Texas, at Rice University and the July 18-24, 1997 Congress was held at Purdue University, the coordinating University, and Indianapolis was the host city. In the summer of 1998 HOBY’s World Leadership Congress was held in Washington DC coordinated by George Washington University.

Born Hugh Krampe in Rochester, New York, Hugh O’Brian was educated in Winnetka, Illinois, and left school at 17 to join the Marines, going on to become one of the Corps' youngest drill sergeants.

This then is the right answer to Dr. Schweitzer's challenge — an answer which has enriched the lives of some 185,000 HOBY alumni who called Hugh O’Brian "Big Daddy," and where he likes to say "Old Wyatt" is putting all his guts, bucks and time. HOBY is O'Brian's true legacy.

HOBY is still going strong. For more information go to or contact the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation and 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2121, Los Angeles, CA 90024. 310-474-4370.

(Hugh O’Brian died at his home in Beverly Hills in September of 2016 at the age of 91.)

(Gladys Brayer lives in Ukiah. This article was originally published in the Lake County American Observer and the Record Bee.)

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