For many of those with whom Julius Hobson worked in city government, news fo his passing yesterday meant tha loss of someone who was sometimes as adversary, but also considered a warrior, freedom fighter, pioneer and "great human being."
"We may have differed wih him from time to time. But you never lost Mayor Walter E. Washington.
"All of us on the Council will miss the guy," said City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker. "He was a real man."
Mr. Hobson, an at-large City Councilman and member of the D.C. Statehood Party, died yesterday at George Washington University Hospital after suffering from Leukemia. he was 54.
His death had been anticipated for many weeks, and already yesterday speculation was beginning among some members of the party's 23-person Statehood central committee as to who would succeed Mr. Hobson on the Council.
City law gives the Statehood Committee the right to choose a temporary successor for Mr. Hobson until a special election can be held, probably in mid-july, to complete the remaining 18 months of Mr. Hobson's four-year term.
Mr. Hobson's immediate successor is likely to come from among four persons, according to some Statehood Party sources: Mr. Hobson's wife, Tina (his stated choice to succeed him), his son Julius Jr., who is a Washington School board member; Hilda Mason, who serves on the school board; and recently elected Statehood Party chairperson Josephine (Jo) Butler.
Several of Mr. HObson's 12 coleagues on the city Council were surprised to learn of his passing. Even though it was uncertain how long he would live, he had only Tuesday's regular Council meeting.
"Even though we knew that Julis had an incurable illness, we regret his leaving," said Council member Marion Barry.
"I'M just glad that he didn't have to suffer a great deal," said Council members Joh A. EIlson.
Many of the Council members saw themselves as being active in different sectors of the same struggles that marked Mr. Hobson's career, and they eulogized him in terms that reflected those struggles.
"Before the cause of social and racial justice came in vogue, his strong but lone voice could be heard," said Council member David A. Clarke. "When many joined in the campaign, he provided the leadership of a pioneer. And, when the focus shifted, Julius fought on."
In the last days of his service on the Council, Mr. Hobson had become concerned that many of those he had struggled beside had somehow betrayed the trust of the voters.
At a recent press conference introducing legislation that would allow elected officials to be recalled from office by the voters, he said politics had gotten too involved in City Council activities and that was enough to drive him out.
It was shortly after Mr. Hobson's doctors told him in January that he might die within six months, that the Statehood Party held its first convention in two years to prepare for his possible passing.
Anton Wood, a member of the party's central committee and former party chairman said yesterday that it is not certain yet how the party will select the successor to Mr. Hobson.
The central committee could choose a replacement immediately on its own, Wood said, or the selection could be made through some kind of poll of the 1800 people who are registered to vote as Statehood Party members in D.C. elections.
If the 23-person committee makes the decision alone, sources said, chair-person Butler - a 56-year-old health educator for the D.C. Lung Association - would have an edge.
SOme of the central committee members worked in her unsuccessful campaign for at-large Council member last fall, and she also has broad of support among party members because of her longtime involvement in the party, according to the source.
Mr. Hobson had told the recent convention he would prefer that his wife succeed him. But several party members said yesterday that Mr. Hobson might not be chosen,or could be picked to fill th spot temporarily, but not be nominated to run in the special election.
Mr. Hobson's son said yesterday that he had often discussed becoming a Council member with his father. "I think he really wanted me to do it," Hobson Jr. said. "He said on several occasions that he would like for me to follow in his footsteps."
Mrs. Mason was unavailable for comment yesterday.
The special election to choose a person to complete Mr. Hobson's term will mark the first time that the city's fledging home-rule government will have to fill a City Council vacancy in midterm, and some of the peculiarities of the election law could be important.
For example, the law provides that only two of the four at-large seats on the COuncil may be held by Democrats, and Democrats already hold two.
This only independents, Republicans and Statehood Party members will be able to run in the election to fill the Hobsom vacancy.
If the younger Hobson is nominated to run in that special election or chosen to temporarily succeed his father, he would have to reliquish his school board seat. The school board would then choose his successor.
If Hobson were defeated in that election, however, he could still be reappointed to the board or even run, in a special election to fill the vacancy his resignation created, according to an elections board lawyer.
Mr. Hobson's successor as chairman of the Council's Committee on Education, Recreation and Youth Affairs is expected to be William Spaulding (d-five), who is now vice chairman of that committee.