About the Founder, Hugh O'Brian

Hugh O'Brian's Autobiography
Want to learn more about Hugh O'Brian? Read about his sixty-plus-year journey from film star to founder of HOBY!

In this lively memoir of one of TV and filmdom’s most memorable actors, readers are taken on a sixty-plus-year journey that continues to this day. Hugh O'Brian's style of self-discipline, enterprise, and tenacity, learned from his Marine Corps dad, carried him from being the youngest Marine Corps drill instructor in history to a legendary career as TV's Wyatt Earp, versatile movie roles, Broadway and stage shows, as well as numerous guest appearances. But it was a life-changing trip to Africa to meet the famed humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer that set O’Brian on a new path – the founding of the Hugh O'Brian Youth (HOBY) organization to develop young leaders, which now boasts over 425,000 alumni and growing. The book includes over I 00 photos, plus Forewords by two special friends – Debbie Reynolds and Hugh Hefner.


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The Freedom to Choose - A Message from Hugh O’Brian

About the Founder - Hugh O'Brian

"Unfortunately, a very small number of our young people seem to attract most of the news. They are in the public eye because they have stolen cars, vandalized schools, created disturbances—in some way rebelled against society. These headline-makers represent only a small part of our teenage population. It is a fact that 98.7 percent of our young people are law-abiding, constructive citizens. There is too much focus on the negative. It is time we accent the positive—pat the good guys and gals on the back— let them know there are rewards for being responsible members of the community.

"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?

"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."

About Hugh O’Brian

About the Founder - Hugh O'Brian

Motion picture and television star Hugh O’Brian has mastered his craft across the entire spectrum of show business. But with all his success he has never lost sight of his civic and philanthropic responsibilities. O’Brian has chosen to use his popularity to motivate others for a worthy cause, and to reinvest his good fortune by working tirelessly to develop projects to benefit young people. He is the founder of Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), organized in 1958. HOBY’s vision is to motivate and empower individuals to make a positive difference within our global society through understanding and action based on effective and compassionate leadership.

The Early Years

Becoming a star was not always O’Brian’s ambition; he almost became a lawyer. Born April 19, 1925 in Rochester, New York (as Hugh C. Krampe), O’Brian attended school at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, and Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri. In high school, his sports activities were divided among football, basketball, wrestling and track, with O’Brian winning letters in all four sports. After a semester at the University of Cincinnati with studies charted toward a law career, O’ Brian enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17. He became the youngest drill instructor in the Corps’ history, and during his four year service won a coveted Fleet appointment to The Naval Academy. After passing the entrance exams, he declined the appointment, intending to enroll at Yale to study law.

After receiving honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, O’Brian went to Los Angeles where he planned to earn money for his Yale tuition. There he met Hollywood movie stars Ruth Roman and Linda Christian, who introduced him to a little theater group. When a leading man became ill, O’ Brian substituted. Originally, he felt the acting experience might be helpful in his legal career; however, he got such good reviews in Somerset Maugham’s play "Home and Beauty" that he decided to enroll at UCLA and continue his theater appearances as an avocation while continuing his quest for a college education. About a year later, Ida Lupino saw one of his performances and signed him to play his first starring role in the film "Young Lovers," which Lupino directed. This bought him a contract with Universal Studios. During his first year under contract, he enrolled at Los Angeles City College and managed to amass 17 college credits in addition to making five pictures at Universal.

Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp

About the Founder - Hugh O'Brian

O’ Brian left Universal after three years to guest star in numerous television shows and in such films as "Broken Lance" and "No Business Like Show Business." Though O’Brian has appeared in hundreds of television shows and movies, there is one role with which he is immediately identified: that of frontier lawman Wyatt Earp. O’Brian played the lead role in the "Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" on ABC television from 1955-61. Shortly after the series debuted in 1955 as the "first adult western," it became the top-rated show on television, and O’Brian became a much-discussed talent. During its seven-year run, "Wyatt Earp" always placed in the top 10 television shows in the nation.

Broadway and More

In 1972-73, O’Brian starred in the action series, "Search." He also starred on Broadway in "Destry Rides Again," "First Love," and in the Broadway revival of "Guys and Dolls." O’Brian also played the starring role in the national company of "Cactus Flower" and appeared in "The Odd Couple," "The Tender Trap," "A Thousand Clowns," and "Plaza Suite." He has been a guest on numerous television and radio shows including the Today Show, the Larry King and Jim Bohanan Shows, Charlie Rose’s Nightwatch and The Pat Sajak Show. Other credits include "The Shootist," "Killer Force," "Game of Death," "Twins," and numerous appearances on "Fantasy Island," "Love Boat," the T.V. series "Paradise," "Gunsmoke II," "Murder, She Wrote," "L.A. Law," and a Kenny Rogers Gambler IV movie, "The Luck of the Draw: The Gambler Returns," and “Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone” – a made-for-TV feature movie.


Now retired from acting, Hugh O’Brian lives in a hilltop home overlooking Beverly Hills. In June 2006, he was married for the first time to longtime partner Virginia Barber. O'Brian continues his humanitarian and public service work both with HOBY and as national chairman of the Spirit of '45 campaign. Spirit of '45 is a nonpartisan, non-profit initiative to raise public awareness about the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II and to honor the legacy of "America's "Greatest Generation." It seeks to engage young and old in a shared intergenerational project that will preserve forever an important part of our nation's history and heritage, while reinvigorating a deeper awareness and appreciation of coming together as a community, honoring service to others, and restoring a sense of national unity at a time when America, and the world, are again facing historic challenges. 

To contact Hugh O’Brian, e-mail obrian_hugh@yahoo.com or call 818-851-3980.

Go to Hugh O'Brian's Website

  • 2006 Excellence in Education Award, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
  • 2003 "Spirit of America" Award, National Council for the Social Studies
  • 2002 Humanitarian Award, Lions Clubs International
  • 2002 Distinguished Service Award, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)
  • 2000 Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy, National Society of Fund Raising Executives, Greater San Fernando Valley Chapter
  • 2000 Teddy Roosevelt Youth Leadership Development Award (the first given), Rocky Mountain College
  • 2000 Certificate of Merit, Freedoms Foundation
  • 2000 "Lifesaver" Award, The Thalians
  • 2000 "Champions of Children" Award, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • 2000 Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award, The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations Foundation, Inc. (NECO)
  • 1998 Meritorious Public Service Citation, the highest civilian award given by the U.S. Department of the Navy
  • 1997 "Treasures of Los Angeles" Award, Central City Association of Los Angeles (CCA)
  • 1997 "1996 Man of the Year" Award, KNX Newsradio
  • 1995 Vision Award, ESA International (Epsilon Sigma Alpha)
  • 1995 "Hearts at Work" Award of Honor
  • 1995 "Foundation Fellow," Ohio District Kiwanis Foundation
  • 1994 American Celtic Globe Humanitarian Award, ICCUSA (Ireland Chamber of Commerce)
  • 1994 Private Enterprise Exemplar Medal, Freedoms Foundation
  • 1993 "The Real Top Gun" Award, HOBY Board of Trustees & National Office Staff
  • 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award, Franklin Mint
  • 1992 Western Heritage Wrangler Award, Great Western Performers Hall of Fame
  • 1990 Lifetime Achievement Award, Los Angeles Business Council
  • 1989 60th Annual American Education Award, American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
  • 1988 Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs
  • 1987 Holiday Project Award, San Francisco, CA
  • 1987 General William Booth International Humanitarian Award, Salvation Army
  • 1987 American Education Award, American Association of School Administrators
  • 1986 Outstanding Love & Concern, General Federation of Women’s Clubs
  • 1986 Ambassador Award, U.S. Jaycees
  • 1985 Semper Fidelis Award, U.S. Marine Corps
  • 1984 National Family of Man Award (the first given), Family Counseling Service
  • 1984 Pat O’Brien Memorial Award (the first given), University of Notre Dame Club, Chicago
  • 1983 Special Award for Philanthropy, National Society of Fund Raising Executives
  • 1982 Outstanding Support to the Youth of America, U.S. Jaycees
  • 1980 Silver Helmet Award, AMVETS
  • 1979 Service to Mankind Award, Hollywood Sertoma Club
  • 1978 Governor’s Award, State of Ohio
  • 1976 District of Columbia Humanitarian Award
  • 1976 American Patriotic Award, VFW
  • 1975 Leadership Award
  • 1974 Globe and Anchor Award, National Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation
  • 1974 George Washington Honor Medal, Freedom Foundation, Valley Forge
  • 1973 Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement
  • 1971 Freedom Through Knowledge Award, NASA
Honorary Degrees
  • 2000 Doctor of Public Service, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • 1991 Doctor of Humane Letters, Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vermont
  • 1991 Doctor of Humane Letters, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA 1991
  • 1987 Doctor of Public Service, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
  • 1986 Doctor of Laws, St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY
  • 1986 Doctor of Humane Letters, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA
  • 1986 Doctor of Humane Letters, St. Mary of the Plains, Dodge City, KS
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More than 4,000 committed HOBY volunteers plan and execute HOBY programs each year, serving both at the local HOBY affiliate level and on HOBY’s Board of Trustees. Due to the selfless efforts of volunteers and the contributions of generous donors, more than 9,000 students participate in HOBY programs annually.