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Posted on: April 25, 2023

Historical marker celebrating local civil rights leader to be unveiled on May 1

Dr. Hubert Eaton Civil Rights Trail Marker Announcement NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – The life and work of Dr. Hubert Eaton, a local civil rights champion and community leader, will be commemorated with the installation of a North Carolina Civil Rights Trail marker in front of the Historic Downtown Courthouse in Wilmington (24 N Third Street).

A ceremony to officially unveil the marker will take place at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 1 inside the Assembly Room on the third floor of the Historic Downtown Courthouse.

“Dr. Eaton was a pioneer in New Hanover County, working for decades to right racial injustice and promote equality in our community,” said Linda Thompson, New Hanover County Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity. “He pushed for desegregation of our schools, hospitals and other public facilities, helping change the rules and create opportunities for minority residents that had previously been denied to them. We are excited to honor Dr. Eaton’s legacy with this permanent reminder of his efforts.”

Born in Fayetteville, Dr. Eaton trained to be a physician at the University of Michigan Medical. He and his wife, Wilmington native Celeste Burnett, eventually moved to the Port City where he became a father of three.

While his occupation was a physician, Dr. Eaton tirelessly led efforts related to civil rights for many years, including the desegregation of New Hanover County Schools, UNCW, the City of Wilmington’s Municipal Golf Course and YMCA.  He and medical colleagues Dr. Daniel Roane and Dr. Samuel Gray fought for medical privileges at James Walker Memorial Hospital in the 1950s and 1960s to get minority residents access to the highest level of care in the community.

In addition to his work in civil rights, Dr. Eaton was an avid tennis player who mentored International Tennis Hall of Famer and former Wimbledon champion Althea Gibson. He also served as American Tennis Association president for 10 years.

The Civil Rights Trail marker is one of 50 being installed throughout the state between 2021-23, highlighting the efforts of civil rights leaders throughout the state. For more information on the Civil Rights Trails, click here.

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