Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Remembering Charles Hubbert

Retired Alabama archaeologist and raconteur Charles Hubbert died in March of this year. I met Charles a few times at archaeology functions I attended with my dad, Amos J. Wright, Jr. I also remember stories about and fond memories of Charles from dad and my younger brother Richard Wright, who also knew him well. You can read Charles' obituary near the bottom of this post.

I have collected some recollections of Charles from people who knew him well. You can read them below.  

The annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference is being held November 6-9 in Jackson, Mississippi. The program will include a symposium of papers in honor of Charles. Carey Oakley will present a paper prepared by Charles, "On Paleoindian and Early Archaic Settlement Locations on the Lowlands of the Middle Tennessee Valley: A Discussion."                     



I can’t remember the time when I didn’t know Charles Hubbert.  I do know that it was at least 50 years ago when Stanfield-Whorley Bluff Shelter, an early-man site, was being investigated by the University of Alabama field school and the Alabama Archaeological Research Association.

When I think of Charles Hubbert, I think of a muscular, bald, heavy-set guy who you felt safe with no matter if you were walking in dense woods or down a dark alley after a late-night drinking spree.  Yes, Charles Hubbert was a friend of mine.

When I think of Charles Hubbert, I think of archaeology.  Not only the garden variety archaeology that we nowadays call “cultural resources management,” but a special time and space known to us as Paleo-Indian.  Charles was especially good at interpreting this period.  In fact, so good that when he poked his finger in your chest, tilted his head upward, fluttered his eye lashes, and very carefully cogitated for at least forty seconds before uttering a sound, you had no choice except to listen intently to what he was telling you.  Charles would, miraculously, transport you to the banks of the Tennessee River where you could see a band of Early Americans knapping out fluted spear points, readying themselves for their next hunt.  Yes, Charles Hubbert was a friend of mine and I will always treasure his taking me along on many of his trips into the past.

When I think of Charles Hubbert, I think of a natural storyteller who could spin a yarn at the drop of a hat.  One story in particular comes to mind.  Way back when Charles was a graduate student at the University, David DeJarnette asked Charles if he would mind checking out some “Indian Writing” as reportedly contained within a cave near Opp, Alabama.  Obviously, any one of us would kill to stay in the good graces of DeJarnette, and going on a little field trip for him was one way of doing so.  Charles made it down to a cattle ranch which was owned and operated by a woman not unlike Barbara Stanwyck of “The Big Valley” fame . . . except she was older, considerably less attractive, and a whole lot meaner.  After introductions were made, she told Charles to get in the back of her rickety old farm truck as she got in, and she took off down a logging trail through the woods.  At this point, Charles wondered why he had to ride in the back and not up front with her, but quickly found himself focused on hanging on for dear life since she was driving at a high rate of speed over ruts, down gullies, and around boulders the size of your head.  By some miracle, they made it down to a small open glade, and there by a small stream was a rock outcrop.  The old woman indicated there was a cave opening within the outcrop that led to the “Indian Writing.”  Charles had enough foresight to bring along an old flashlight, but that was about it for his spelunking gear.  The cave opening was very small, just barely big enough for a large dog to get through.  This presented a challenge for Charles, so he hunkered down on all fours.  After he made it a few feet within the cave, through the twilight zone into the truly dark recesses of the cave, he had to drop to his belly to get through.  As he turned on his flashlight, he could see—maybe three to four feet away—a series of ledges or rock crevices.  And nestled within the cracks and crannies were sets of eyeballs looking back at him.  Charles thought this was a strange place for frogs, then noticed the long bodies wiggling around.  With instant terror, he realized that he had crawled into a den of rattlesnakes!  Scraping skin from his head, back, and knees as he ejected himself out of the cave, Charles exclaimed to the old woman waiting outside “There’s rattlesnakes in there!!!”  Her immediate response was “Of course there is, young man.  I didn’t know you were afraid of snakes!”  Neither Charles, DeJarnette, nor anyone else for that matter, knows for sure about “Indian Writing” within that cave.  Charles Hubbert’s stories were so full of life and detail that they were stored in our memories like personal experiences.

When I think of Charles Hubbert, I think of a man who was a friend to animals, especially dogs—particularly Beagles.  On numerous occasions, we would talk about dogs and how they would sound hot on a trail.  On one occasion, he related that while he was on one of his country drives, he stopped at an area where people had dumped some garbage.  And there, standing by the woods, was a rather unkempt dog watching him.  As I recall Charles recounting the event, it seemed like the two of them were fellow travelers on different trails.  Charles, being the kind person he was and assuming this fellow could be hungry, reached into his truck and pulled out and unwrapped a McDonald’s hamburger.  Laying it on the ground before the dog, his assumption was correct as he watched the dog eat every morsel before turning to leave.  For some reason, unknown even to Charles, he felt compelled to return the next day, and the day after for about a week.  Each time, the dog would be there, seemingly grateful as he accepted and ate another hamburger.  Then one day, the dog did not appear.  Charles had to assume that it was time for the dog to continue its journey.  To me, this is reminiscent of Charles’ favorite Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.”

Charles Hubbert and I traveled down many roads together.  Even though our paths have separated, I know that he is still out there every time the wind blows and the Beagles bark.  Look ahead and you may see him just around the bend.  I know I will.

Carey Oakley
Fellow Traveler


Charles was still here when I came to OAR in 1995. I will always remember the way he’d say “Lemme tell ya…” with a few lip smacks and a tilt of his bald head. Then he’d be off on an hour long story about something: like the time Krause got punched out at the University Club by Dart Hayward (I think Carey, Bennett, and Eugene have all told me the exact same story), about how to find early sites and why they are where they are, about boats, alligators released by TVA into the Tennessee River to control beavers, and how not to get shot while driving a truck down the firing range as the Army was testing the Dragon missile (that was the only place you could speed on Redstone Arsenal).
The last time I spent time with him, his breathing was labored and he had a hard time getting in and out of the boat, but he sat down on a log at the mouth of Coffee Slough, smacked his lips a few times, tilted his head and said, “Lemme tell ya…” I will miss him too.

Matthew Gage RPA | Director
Office of Archaeological Research
The University of Alabama Museums


I am very sad to hear this. I was on four different OAR archaeological projects with Charles: Little Bear Creek 1973, survey around Montgomery 1975, the Bay Springs Lake Ten-Tom survey in ‘76, and the truly amazing canoe-based survey and testing in R. L. Harris Reservoir in ‘77. In that last one, we had a heavy oak box fish trap made in early 20th century style by an elderly gent and we waded out in the Little Tallapoosa River to fit this thing into a stone fish weir. Got permission from AL Fish & Game to use it for one week. We ate fish every night. Recorded all the fish species and weights, then had to remove it. But it had taken up so much water, it must have weighed a 1000 pounds! Nearly killed us getting the darn contraption back out.
I worked with Charles under all sorts of conditions and circumstances. He was an excellent outdoorsman and a good story teller. Never a boring minute with Charles in the field--  Paleo points, moonshine, rabbit hunting, snake stories, ghosts, ginseng hunting, running rapids in canoes, weird country people, recording rural folkways now extinct, finding and  recording nearly every kind of archaeological site there is in Alabama – on and on.
One more anecdote that reveals his strong personality – in the 60s he wrote a letter to the Florence/Tuscumbia newspaper in support of school integration, which back then, required courage—the KKK called him that night and threaten him and his little boy.
Hadn’t spoken with Charles in about ten years. Now I wish I had…

John Blitz 


Charles was a graduate student at the University in the early 1970s. He was a former employee at Reynolds Aluminum, then a high school football coach, before pursuing his dream of being an archaeologist. His never completed M.A. thesis dealt with Paleoindian settlement in the Western Middle Tennessee Valley. In one summer, he documented over 50 fluted point sites in his survey area. Not Paleoindian sites, but sites with at least one fluted point.

Charles was one of OAR’s first employees. He worked on the 1972 Bear Creek Survey and was a field supervisor for the 1973-1974 excavations in Little Bear Creek. John Blitz, a high school student at the time, was a crew member on those excavations. Charles stayed at OAR several more years. His larger projects included the 1976 survey of Bay Springs Lake on the upper Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, Tishomingo and Prentiss Counties, Mississippi, and the final season, 1977, of investigation of R. L. Harris Lake on the Little Tallapoosa River in Randolph County, Alabama. The Harris Lake project was originally intended to test additional recorded sites and to do some systematic survey to better understand the settlement pattern. The focus shifted, however, as low water revealed a number of previously known fish weirs in the river. The survey ultimately recorded and mapped 58 weirs within the proposed reservoir.

He returned to North Alabama and over the next few years produced a number of small survey reports as a private consultant. In 1985, he rejoined the staff of OAR. For the next several years, Charles was the first base archaeologist for Redstone Arsenal, Madison County, Alabama. Federal hiring practices limited his tenure at the arsenal, so he returned to campus and conducted a number of survey  projects in 1989-1997.

Charles was a coworker and an important part of the early history of OAR. More than that, he was a friend for many years. I will miss him.

Eugene Futato


Charles was a wonderful story teller.  One of my favorites was this one. 

                          "Mountain Man"

The scene in the painting is at the upper end of Bailey Cove Drive, where the upper end of Bailey Cove Drive swings back to the West across that wide flat bottomland covered with lush grass. In the background are the 
hardwood slopes of the Huntsville mountains.  By automobile the scene 
shown in the painting is about four miles north and about one mile west 
from where Louie Lovre'ce engraved his name in 1735.
I know this is the painting I remember, although it is not exactly as I 
remember it.  In my mind the man was moving downstream along the creek(as 
he is here)but his horse was moving from left-to-right across the picture, and trailing behind him were three loaded packhorses.  The place 
is just a short distance from where I lived in Huntsville.  
Still.......I love this painting.  About 4 miles south of this place on 
a forested mountainside looking north across the Tennessee River is a 
spring.  About 3 feet from the spring, clearly engraved into a big 
boulder is "Louie 'Lovre'ce   1735".  I have always thought that he was 
a French soldier from Canada who had accompanied an Iroquois war party 
down the Mississippi River to attack frontier settlers and the Chickasaw 
tribe.  I have also imagined that he was an Indian trader come to 
conduct business with the Chickasaw beyond the frontier. It is not 
very often that we get to connect a historical name with real 
archaeological remains. Last time I tried to go there I could'nt make it.
I'm going to try to get a good print so I can frame this little painting for my little computer room.  It is the kind of painting that can usher me away into imaginary adventures in a time and place......maybe.......I 
never was.  But after all such a dream is as good as a book.......

Annette Otts


My brother Richard worked with Charles on this fish weir project.

Source: Florence Times-Daily 4 April 2019

FLORENCE — Charles McConnell Hubbert, 83, of Florence, Alabama, passed away peacefully on Thursday, March 28, 2019 at North Alabama Medical Center.

Charles was born May 26, 1935 in Cordova, Alabama to Paul Kaley and Esther Elmore Hubbert. He was educated in the Birmingham, Alabama school system, Copiah-Lincoln Junior College, Florence State University, and the University of Alabama. Charles was an offensive lineman, a left guard, on the Florence State football team. In 1989, he married the former Delores “Dee” Johnson in Huntsville, AL. Charles was employed as an archaeologist at the University of Alabama, retiring in 1999. His passion for archaeology never wavered and he continued his studies and search for information about Paleo-Indian peoples until shortly before his passing. A committed environmentalist, he spent years working with organizations protecting natural spaces, like the Bankhead National Forest. He was an avid hunter and spent many happy days in the woods, enjoying nature. He filled most of his weekends looking for Indian sites, searching for flowers, and cheering on the Crimson Tide. A man of diverse interests, he was a lifetime member of the Alabama Archaeological Society, the American Daffodil Society, and MENSA. He also enjoyed reading, travelling and spending time with his children, grandchildren, and friends.
Charles is survived by his wife, Delores; his three children, Paul Hubbert and his wife, Cheryl, of Muscle Shoals, Valla Brown and her husband, Craig, of Florence, and Jonathon Hubbert and his wife, Tamara, of Huntsville; his former wife and mother of his children, Carole Ann Halcombe; six grandchildren, Kaley Shaffer, Trevor Davidson, Jonathon Hubbert, Benjamin Hubbert, Garland Brown, and Alec Brown; his brothers, Thomas and Langdon Hubbert; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Paul and Esther, and a wife, the former Mary Ann Brice.
Memorials can be made to your favorite charity or the Michael J. Fox Foundation, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014. You may sign the guest register at

Office of Archaeological Research
University of Alabama Museums

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