H. Claude Hudson: NAACP leader; links to '12 Years' saga

Avoyelles Black History

Many are unaware that an Avoyelles Parish native is one of the giants of the African-American civil rights movement.

Henry Claude Hudson was born in Cocoville on April 19, 1886. He became active in the movement to improve the lives of African-Americans. He died at the age of 102 in January 1989. He was a leader in the “Niagara Movement” in the early 1900s and in establishing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that followed.

Hudson is also connected to one of Avoyelles’ most famous historical stories, Solomon Northup’s "12 Years a Slave."

District Attorney Charles Riddle has done extensive research on Sam Bass, a white Canadian carpenter who helped to win Northup’s freedom from slavery. Riddle said Bass was Hudson’s great-grandfather. Riddle said Bass had a child with Agustine “Justine” Tournier in 1847. She was described as a free woman of color and was probably the granddaughter of French planter Francois Tournier, who owned a large plantation south of Marksville in the early 1800s.

Bass’ daughter Helena, also called “Ellen,” married John Cass in 1868. Hudson’s father, Thadius Hudson, married Ellen and John’s daughter, Mary Cass.

Biographies of Hudson state he was the son of a slave, but do not note the link to Bass and the Northup story.

While many believe Bass moved back to Canada after the Northup case, he actually died in Marksville about eight months after Northup was freed, Riddle said.

John P. Waddill, the Marksville attorney who filed the pleadings to free Northup, was with Bass the night of his death, finalizing his last will. John and Ellen Cass lived next to Waddill at what is now the corner of Waddil and Cottage streets in Marksville, at approximately the site of the Marksville High School gym.

Hudson’s life was one of achievement and service.

He studied at Wiley College, in Marshall, Texas. In 1913 he earned a degree from the dentistry school at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He returned to Louisiana, married, and established a dental practice in Shreveport.

It was while enrolled at Howard that Hudson met with blacks and whites who were trying to improve the lifestyles of American blacks.

Hudson told New West magazine in 1980 that the group met off-campus periodically. In 1905, they tried to book a hotel at Niagara Falls, N.Y., for a meeting. None of the hotels on the American side of the falls would rent to them, so they met on the Canadian side and adopted the name, “the Niagara Movement.”

In 1921 Hudson became the president of the NAACP in Shreveport. Local officials became concerned and urged him to leave the state.

He and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1923, where he soon assumed leadership of a deeply divided NAACP chapter. Hudson was arrested during a protest that helped to end segregation on the Southern California beaches.

He earned a law degree from Loyola University in 1931, but never practiced law.

In 1953, after leaving office of the local chapter, he was named to the NAACP’s national board of directors.

Hudson was one of the original investors in Los Angeles’ Broadway Federal Savings and Loan in 1946. He became chairman of the board in 1949 and held that position for 23 years. The bank serves a largely African-American community in southern Los Angeles.

Hudson received a number of honors during his life in recognition of his service to African-Americans and to all residents of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors named a comprehensive health center and an auditorium in the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital in his honor. He received the county’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1976.

Hudson was called “Mr. NAACP” by Los Angeles residents who recognized him as one of the city’s most respected and influential leaders in the black community.


105 N Main St
Marksville, LA 71351
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