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Hitchcock, Howard (1866–1932)

by Ian Wynd

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Howard Hitchcock (1866-1932), businessman and civic leader, was born on 31 March 1866 at Geelong, Victoria, son of George Mitchelmore Hitchcock and his wife Annie, née Lowe. He was educated at Flinders State School and private schools before beginning at 18 as an assistant in the family firm of Bright & Hitchcocks, drapers. Five years later he became a junior partner; on his father's death in 1912 he took over as managing director. In 1926 he sold the business to five of his employees.

Hitchcock was prominent in the Yarra Street Wesleyan Church, serving for over twenty-five years as organist and over ten years as secretary and superintendent. He was also a member of the church tennis and cricket teams. These activities formed his main interests until 1915 when, after successfully campaigning to prevent the Geelong City Council from moving its headquarters to the recently vacated Geelong Church of England Grammar School buildings, he was prevailed upon to stand for council. Elected as representative for Bellarine Ward, within two years he was chosen as mayor and served a record consecutive five years in that office in 1917-22. He became an alderman in 1920, and was appointed O.B.E. that year and C.M.G. two years later.

During his mayoralty Hitchcock accepted all invitations, attending three or four functions in an evening, and travelled 80,000 miles (128,747 km) in his own car. His slogan was 'civic improvement and beautification' which he put into practice in development schemes for Johnstone's Park and the Eastern Beach. He firmly believed that those who had made their fortune in the town should be prepared to plough it back into its development, and he established a Junior Civic Association to instil his 'new civic ideal' into the minds of the young. He never ceased to push the merits of Geelong, extending to visitors lavish, though teetotal, hospitality out of his own pocket.

Hitchcock was active in fund-raising activities during and just after the war. He helped to obtain £1.5 million for war loans and £132,000 for various war and peace funds, including the Kitchener Memorial Hospital. His own donations often reached four figures. While mayor Hitchcock was also active president or chairman for thirty-one public bodies, vice-president of five, trustee of ten, secretary of four, treasurer of four and committee-member of seven.

Hitchcock's interests turned outside Geelong when he espoused William Calder's proposal for the establishment of the Great Ocean Road as a memorial to the soldiers of the Western District. He became president of the Great Ocean Road Trust in 1918; he gave nearly £3000 to its appeal and it was his enthusiasm and energy as much as anything that kept the project afloat. He died before he was able to open the completed road in 1932; in tribute, his car was driven behind the governor's in the procession along the road on opening day.

In 1923 Hitchcock embarked on his third trip abroad and was absent for nearly three years. On his return he was met by a cavalcade of cars at the outskirts of the town and escorted to a huge civic reception. In June 1925, in his absence, he had been elected member for South-Western Province in the Legislative Council. In 1931 he resigned all public positions because of ill health. He died of heart disease on 22 August 1932, survived by his wife Charlotte Louisa Turnbull, née Royce, whom he had married on 16 April 1890; they had no children. He was buried in Eastern cemetery after a service at the Yarra Street Wesleyan Church. His estate was valued for probate at £71,276.

Select Bibliography

  • Geelong Advertiser, 8 May 1912, 23, 25 Aug 1932
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Aug 1932
  • Argus (Melbourne), 23 Aug 1932
  • Howard Hitchcock's mayoral scrapbook (Geelong Historical Records Centre).

Citation details

Ian Wynd, 'Hitchcock, Howard (1866–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hitchcock-howard-6685/text11529, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 27 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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