O’Brian’s passion for community service inspired thousands
When the Business Times had a chance to speak with legendary actor Hugh O’Brian, we jumped at the chance.
The opportunity came about five years ago as the “Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership” program, a national nonprofit, was beginning to raise its profile in the region.
One of those hidden gems of East Ventura County, the Westlake Village-based program, also known as HOBY, has provided training to thousands of high school students throughout the country, teaching self-reliance and the power of community service. The organization moved to Westlake Village from Westwood roughly eight years ago.
We spoke with O’Brian in 2011.
Speaking to Business Times writer Tom Bronzini from Beverly Hills, O’Brian, then age 86, talked about how his program had two goals in trying to reach America’s youth.
“The main thing is to excite them about the potential they have,’’ he said via speakerphone.
And he said another goal is to teach young people to see beyond themselves and learn that “the greatest gift they’ll ever receive in life is one that they give to someone else.”
At the start of the interview, the man who starred in the ABC series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” from 1955 until 1961 apologized for taking the time to put on his hearing aids, the result of hearing loss suffered during filming.
As Bronzini put it: “The usual industry practice was to shoot only quarter loads of powder in gunfire scenes, but he insisted on full loads for authenticity.”
At the time of his death on Sept. 1 at age 91, the actor’s influence on young people had begun to overshadow his legacy as America’s most famous lawman, the man who wore a black coat and brandished a Colt .45 with an extra-long barrel, called a “Buntline Special.” Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership sent some 375,000 high school sophomores through training, earning the actor worldwide accolades.
The HOBY program emerged out of a visit that O’Brian paid to Nobel Laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer at his clinic in Africa in 1958.
He set up HOBY as a nonprofit with the goal “to inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation.”
O’Brian had kept tabs on the organization he created, which has evolved with the times, boasting a strong digital presence, an app and even a business plan competition where students head to the Globe Theater at Universal Studios to fast pitch their world changing ideas.
O’Brian is clearly one of those unique characters who was highly successful in his profession and channeled that success into something he believed in with as much passion as his ability to play a role on camera.
During a week when the Business Times celebrates philanthropy with our annual Giving Guide publication, it seems fitting to recognize the gifts that O’Brian gave to all of us.
• Reach Editor Henry Dubroff at firstname.lastname@example.org.