Sculptor, painter, printmaker, author, educator and civil servant, Hayward Louis Oubre, Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1916. He grew up in the city and gained his early academic training from the local schools. He attended Dillard University in New Orleans, graduating with a B.A. in 1939. He was the first art major to graduate from Dillard. Opportunities were seldom available for an art major during the Depression era, so Oubre continued his studies at the prestigious Black Atlanta University, where he had the opportunity to study under Harlem Renaissance sculptor, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet and painter/muralist, Hale Woodruff.
In 1940 Oubre went to Tuskegee Institute where he met and interacted with Dr. George Washington Carver. His stay at Tuskegee was brief, as the United States Army had just entered into WWII. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941 and, with an estimated 3,700 army engineers, he was sent to Alaska to build the Alcan (or Alaska) Highway, a military supply route that connected military posts in Alaska with the mid-continental United States. Oubre and his fellow engineers completed this daunting task in below freezing temperatures in undesirable living and working conditions. The efforts of the Black soldiers that built the highway have been well documented in various print and television media. During his time in the army, Oubre obtained the rank of Master Sargeant and received numerous honors, among them: The American Defense Ribbon in 1942, the Asiatic Pacific Ribbon in 1943, an Alcan Highway Citation in 1943 and the Sharp Shooter Medal (rifle).
When his military tour of duty was complete, Oubre returned home to continue his education under the G.I. Bill and enrolled at the University of Iowa. He married Juanita Hurel in 1945 and the couple had one daughter. When Oubre graduated in 1948, he became the 3rd African-American to receive a Masters of Fine Art degree from the University of Iowa. He went on to teach at Florida A&M University, Alabama State College (now University), and Winston-Salem State University. Oubre retired from Winston- Salem Sate University in 1981, but returned one year later to serve as the curator of the Selma Burke Art Gallery.
Oubre has received numerous awards, including Who’s Who in American Art, Who’s Who in Black America and North Carolina’s highest honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.