“I do NOT believe we are all born equal — CREATED equal in the eyes of God, YES — but physical and emotional differences, parental guidance, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual’s development. But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize his or her own potential, regardless of background, has the Freedom To Choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist, or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream?”~ Hugh O’Brian | April 19, 1925 ~ September 5, 2016
Hugh O’Brian, famed for his role as television’s Wyatt Earp in “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” from 1955-1961, passed away the morning of September 5, 2016, at the age 91. He will forever be remembered as a man of great success both on and off the camera.
Hugh O’Brian’s acting career began inadvertently in 1947 while attending a performance of Somerset Maugham’s play “Home and Beauty.” The leading actor fell ill and O’Brian agreed to take his place on stage. Inspired by great reviews, he decided to pursue a career on stage, which led to his first contract with Universal Studios.
After three years, O’Brian left Universal to guest star in numerous television shows and films such as “Broken Lance” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” His breakthrough came in 1955 when he was chosen to portray lawman Wyatt Earp in “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.” O’Brian’s charisma and talent brought the oversized-pistol toting lawman to life and launched the show to seven consecutive appearances in the nation’s top ten most watched television list.
O’Brian continued to appear in countless on-screen and Broadway projects. On television, he made guest appearances in series such as “Fantasy Island,” “The Love Boat,” and “Charlie’s Angels.” On Broadway, he starred in “Destry Rides Again,” “First Love,” and “The Odd Couple.” O’Brian’s major film career lasted for decades, including his 1976 appearance in “The Shootist,” which was John Wayne’s final film, the 1988 appearance in “Twins” costarring alongside Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger and his 1994 cameo appearance in “Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone.”
At the peak of his acting career, O’Brian journeyed to Africa to spend nine days with Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Dr. Schweitzer instilled in him a simple belief: “the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves.” Before O’Brian left Africa, Dr. Schweitzer grabbed his hand and asked him, “What are you going to do with all of this?”
O’Brian returned to the United States resolved to put Dr. Schweitzer’s words into action, and he founded Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) in 1958. He imagined a non-profit organization rooted with the mission to inspire a global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation.
For 58 years, HOBY has helped to cultivate tomorrow’s leaders. To date, over 470,000 alumni have participated in its various programs. These programs annually provide more than 12,000 local and international high school students with opportunities to participate in unique leadership training, service learning, and motivation-building experiences.
“I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose: to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love,” Hugh O’Brian once said.
Hugh O’Brian was born Hugh Charles Krampe on April 19, 1925, in Rochester, New York, to United States Marine Corps officer Hugh John Krampe and his wife, Edith. Growing up, O’Brian attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, and Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri, where he was a multi-sport star in football, basketball, wrestling, and track.
After graduating high school, O’Brian enrolled at the University of Cincinnati to pursue a career in law. After only one semester, at the age of 17, he left the University and enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II, where he then became the youngest drill instructor in the Corps’ history. On June 25, 2006, at the age of 81, O’Brian married long-time partner, Virginia Stumpf (Barber).
O’Brian is survived by his loving wife, Virginia O’Brian, his brother Don Krampe and Don’s wife Jean, his sister-in-law Wendy Stumpf Hughes, and seven nieces and nephews as well as an incredible legacy of a life of service, and an organization that will continue his lifelong dream of helping youth reach their potential as leaders.
Contributions may be made in lieu of flowers to the Hugh O’Brian Legacy Fund, a fund created with Hugh’s and Virginia’s input and support. The Hugh O’Brian Legacy Fund is an endowment with the goal of providing support for students to participate in any HOBY program.
Hugh’s belief in the potential of every human being and his commitment to helping the youth of the world become major contributors to society is his lasting legacy. He founded Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) in 1958 based on that belief and today more than 470,000 HOBY alumni are better people, making a difference in the lives of others, thanks to the vision and passion of Hugh O’Brian. While the entertainment industry has lost one of its own and the baby boomers have lost their Wyatt Earp, we will remember Hugh as a person who dedicated his life to inspiring a global community of youth and volunteers committed to leadership, service and innovation. Hugh’s impact on young leaders and on the world cannot be understated. Like the legendary lawman he was so proud of playing, Hugh was a hero. He was our hero and we will miss him very much.
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