Hillard Kountze

last updated by Surella on December 1st, 2005 at 4:48 pm

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The patriarch…

Born into slavery in Virginia the mid 1860’s, Hillard Kountze moved to West Medford at the turn of the century and started a family in the bourgeoning African-American community there. Hillard and his wife Madeline Mabray instilled in their children an extraordinarily dedication to education, family, and public duty. Through his work for the law firm of Brandeis, Dunbar, and Nutter and for Justice Brandeis personally, Hillard learned a great deal about the real estate and insurance industries and opened his own real estate and insurance business in Medford. The first African-American to enter these industries, Mr. Kountze used his business acumen to assist his fellow West Medford community members. Among the many accomplishments of his life, perhaps the most important is the example Hillard Kountze set for his children and extended family. His success in life came from what appears to be a constant will to learn and to serve others, and to never be stopped by any racial boundaries that might be put in his way.**


Glimpses of Hillard’s scrapbook of newspaper clippings from roughly 1912 through the 1930’s…

This personal collection of column-advice, poetry, religious art, christian opinions, political cartoons and racially driven articles…is a veritible time capsule of publications as well as collage of the man who made it. Respectfully digitally photographed and shared here with permission of the Kountze family with great thanks to them for loaning it to us for this project. (blurb & scrapbook-content below by jojo)

the cover of the scrapbook, which itself was a reused manufacturing co. brochure the inscription within


In his family’s words…

The sections included below were as pertained to our archival group discussion of the Kountze family legacy as microcosm of the West Medford pride and legacy in education with Hillard Kountze as an important family patriarch and trend-setter. All text below from a phone interview conducted by Daniel Koosed with Dr. Ione Vargus.

Born into slavery…

“Having been born a slave, of course, he [Hillard] was born a slave but slavery ended within I guess a year or two of his birth so he wasn’t really a slave all those years. How he learned to read and write I don’t know except that we know that he did learn to read and write because he ran a real estate company and, you know, we have examples of his writing.” - Granddaughter Ione Vargus

The power of education…

“Of course when I went to Brandeis, then, to get my doctorate, my Uncle Mabray just thought that that was really really some very special kind of thing to have happen that here my grandfather had had a relationship, knew Justice Brandeis so well, and now his granddaughter is going to Brandeis.” - Granddaughter Ione Vargus

The shared values of a community…

“He [Hillard] and my grandmother, really, were really well educated. But you’ll find that people in that time, black people in that time, actually while it may seem unusual for them to read and write, in our community, in Medford, you’ll find that a number of people were able to write. When I was doing my doctorate at Brandeis, one of the things I did was sort of an analysis of West Medford and I looked at many old, old, old documents, particularly club organizations, and I found the writing, the handwriting was absolutely gorgeous, beautiful, much better than people handwrite today. And these were people who all had come either very close to slavery or had been born in slavery or born, you know, close to the time. So somehow or other they did learn to read and write.” - Granddaughter Ione Vargus

**Work referenced: Voices of West Medford, by Sharon Kennedy