Peggy Hubbard’s life took an astonishing turn nearly four years ago after she posted an emotional video on Facebook that went viral and instantly made her a public figure.
The day in question was in 2015, when 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden was killed in a drive-by shooting in Ferguson. The little girl was sitting on her bed doing homework when her life was ended by a stray bullet. At about the same time that Jamyla died, an armed, drug-dealing suspect was shot and killed during a police raid in north St. Louis. The city was still at the center of the national debate on racial strife, and police shootings and protests were common. When Hubbard saw demonstrations at the scene of the drug raid but nobody protesting the killing of Jamyla, she had enough.
“I was crying over this little girl who died in her grandmother’s arms, but they were protesting the shooting of a drug dealer?” Hubbard recalls.
She was at a park near her home in Belleville when she went live on Facebook. The scathing 6½-minute video was filled with extreme profanity. She angrily cussed out the people who were rioting and condemning police instead of focusing on the victimized child. “A little girl is dead,” Hubbard said in the epic rant. “You say black lives matter? Her life mattered. Her dreams mattered. Her future mattered! The police are not the problem – violence in the black community is!”
The video immediately took off – shared by thousands on Facebook and YouTube, ultimately receiving millions of views. Her raw and impassioned message struck a chord with a lot of people.
“When I realized how many people had seen the video, I said to myself, what the heck did I do?” Hubbard relates. “I started getting calls from the local news and then Fox News and CNN and NBC News and media from all over the world. I was shocked at how far that video went.”
Hubbard went to Jamyla’s funeral, and the family encouraged her to keep speaking out, but she decided to do something more than just talk. Even though she wasn’t a politician, Hubbard decided to run for elected office – but not just any elected office. She set her sights on the United States Senate seat held by Illinois’ Dick Durbin.
If she wins, Hubbard would become the first black Republican woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Her odds of success are almost as staggering as the odds she had to beat to get where she is today.
She was born two months premature in 1964 at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, one of St. Louis’ two “black” hospitals back then. Doctors told her mother she probably wouldn’t survive.
“They baptized me and our priest gave me last rites,” Hubbard says. “They took me off life-support and thought I would go at any minute, but my mom said I just held on. She said the doctors had never seen anything like it, and Mom told them I was here for a reason.”
Hubbard was raised in St. Louis’ impoverished Wells Goodfellow neighborhood and says her abusive father abandoned her family when she was just 3. Years later, one of her brothers was murdered during a drug deal. Hubbard decided she wouldn’t be “sucked down” and stayed out of trouble. She graduated from St. Louis’ Soldan High School in 1983 and joined the Navy, where she served almost 10 years.
Just like her mother, Hubbard recalls, she also survived an abusive relationship. She came back to St. Louis, where she met and married police officer Charles Hubbard. Hubbard’s training in the Navy helped her get a part-time job as a cop in Brooklyn, Illinois, but she also had a full-time job with the IRS.
Hubbard and her husband became avid motorcyclists and rode their Harleys to local and national biker events. (Hubbard rides a Harley 1200XL.) Two years ago, all of that almost ended when her husband was shot in the line of duty while making an arrest. He was seriously wounded but survived.
Now that he’s recovered, Hubbard is putting all of her effort into her campaign. She says because of her conservative politics, she’s been shunned by some in the black community and even her own family, but says the encouragement from her biker and police “families” and newly found political supporters keeps her motivated.
“I look back at my life and see the things I’ve been through, and it only makes me stronger,” Hubbard says, “and it’s prepared me for what I’m about to do now.” And if she’s successful in this part her life, it would be the most astonishing turn yet.
Paul Brown is a longtime journalist on radio, on television and in print as a reporter, an anchor, a talk show host and a columnist. He’s also a media and public relations consultant with Paul Brown Media.