“Mr. Hudson believed in being liberal toward many worthy charitable, educational and philanthropic endeavors and it is my sincere hope that this will be a continuing policy through the coming years.”― Richard Hudson Webber, 1943
The Hudson and Webber families, The J. L. Hudson Company and the Hudson‑Webber Foundation are historically intertwined. Therefore, this brief account begins with the birth of the Company’s founder, Joseph Lowthian Hudson, in England in 1846.
Having emigrated first to Ontario and then to Michigan, in 1881 Joseph L. Hudson opened a small men’s and boys’ store in Detroit, The J. L. Hudson Company. Before his death in 1912, it grew to be the City’s largest department store.
While developing his successful business, Joseph L. Hudson was also developing a strong commitment to the City of Detroit. He was a most generous benefactor of local charities and his leadership on civic boards and committees was inspiring. Many were enriched, directly and indirectly, by his work, his life, and his example.
Although he never married, Joseph L. Hudson was the head of his family of three brothers and three sisters and their children. Many of them lived with him and looked to him for counsel and support.
The four sons of his sister, Mary, who had married Joseph T. Webber of Ionia, Michigan, were his particular protégés. He trained them as merchants, prepared them for future management responsibilities, and instilled in them a sense of social responsibility. Upon Joseph L. Hudson’s death, Richard H. Webber inherited 51% of The J. L. Hudson Company stock and major shares in The Hudson Motor Car Company, in which Hudson had been a founder. The other Webber brothers also inherited J. L. Hudson Company stock and with Richard shared in the Company’s destiny. Richard H. Webber became President, James B. and Joseph L. Webber became the Merchandise Directors, and Oscar Webber became the General Manager.
Richard Webber and his younger brothers had learned well from their uncle, and under their management the Company continued to pioneer new merchandising approaches and to expand. During their lifetimes, they developed the Company into one of America’s most important department store chains including several of the world’s largest shopping centers.
The Webber brothers also exhibited great civic commitment and leadership in the tradition of their uncle. Each gave generously of his talent and financial resources for the betterment of Detroit.
Origins of the Foundation
Richard Hudson Webber was a man of vision. While planning the extraordinary growth of the family business, he also created three philanthropic foundations to perpetuate the family’s civic and social contributions to the metropolitan Detroit community.
In 1939, Richard Webber and his wife, Eloise, established the Eloise and Richard Webber Foundation, and they added to it substantially over the years. Their daughters, Jean Webber Sutphin and Mary Webber Parker, and Richard’s sister, Louise Webber O’Brien, also provided important contributions. In 1960, Richard and Eloise Webber established the Richard H. and Eloise Jenks Webber Charitable Fund, Inc. In addition, their daughters, Jean and Mary, and Richard’s brother, Joseph L. Webber, provided substantial contributions. The Hudson-Webber Foundation was organized in 1943. Major gifts to it were provided by The J. L. Hudson Company and by Richard, Joseph, and Oscar Webber. Significant contributions also have been provided by Company employees and other members of the family.
During 1983, the Foundations decided that they could more effectively and efficiently fulfill their respective, but compatible, purposes if they merged. Combining the three corporate entities into one would enable better planning and administration, while reducing expenses. A merger also would eliminate public confusion regarding differences among the Foundations and would simplify the community’s communications and dealings with the Foundations.
Accordingly, the Members and Trustees of the Foundations merged the Eloise and Richard Webber Foundation and the Richard H. and Eloise Jenks Webber Charitable Fund, Inc. into the Hudson-Webber Foundation, effective January 1, 1984. The surviving entity stands as proud testimony to its creators and continues to fulfill their plan for the family’s civic and social contributions to the metropolitan Detroit community.