HAGGINS, ISAAC SR., (18 Aug. 1930-20 May 2018), an AFRICAN AMERICAN REAL ESTATE broker, was born in New Bern, N.C. Haggins was named for his grandfather Isaac Smith. Smith had served as a black state legislator until North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1900 that effectively disenfranchised African Americans, after which he developed a black residential allotment in New Bern.
Haggins grew up in Asbury Park, N.J., where his father worked as a waiter. In Asbury Park, Haggins worked as a shoeshine, a newspaper boy, and, when he was older, as a roller-chair pusher on the boardwalk and a hotel bellhop. Haggins graduated from West Virginia State College in 1949. He moved to Cleveland in 1954, joining his older brother and working as a waiter at local country clubs. He also worked as a shoe salesman and in 1955 became the city’s first black shoe store manager. Haggins bought his first home in 1956 on Parkgate Dr., a street in the GLENVILLE neighborhood that was already mostly African American. Like his grandfather, Haggins gravitated to the real estate business.
In 1959, he became an agent for L.C. Hinkle Realty in the CENTRAL neighborhood. The following year he started Isaac Haggins Realty Co., operating from his home. In 1961, he opened a new office on St. Clair Ave. in Glenville and, soon thereafter, a branch office on Union Ave. in MOUNT PLEASANT. In 1968, after several unsuccessful attempts to lease space in the SUBURBS, he opened a third office at 2221 N. Taylor Rd. in CLEVELAND HTS., which was the first black-owned realty office in a Cleveland suburb. The office was located across the street from Forest Hill, a restricted neighborhood, and some charged that Haggins engaged in blockbusting (the practice of creating panic among white homeowners to profit from rapid racial turnover). However, he always maintained that his intent was to foster a stable real estate market and to sell openly to all, regardless of race.
Haggins, who assembled an integrated staff, credited CARL B. STOKES and Martin Luther King, Jr., with inspiring him not to list homes for African Americans only in recognized black sections of the city. Haggins was an officer in the United Brokers of Cleveland, an organization that lobbied for FAIR HOUSING legislation prior to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. On 14 Feb. 1969, the N. Taylor office was bombed. No one was in the building at the time of the blast. The crime went unsolved, but many members of the community resolved to help Haggins overcome this setback. A number of white homeowners in the eastern suburbs went to him to offer to list their homes on the open market. Haggins, by his own account, sold the first home to an African American buyer in LYNDHURST after the bombing. In 1978, Haggins Realty closed its Mt. Pleasant location but maintained its Glenville and Cleveland Heights offices. Haggins later consolidated into a single office in SOUTH EUCLID and retired in 2015. Haggins married Kathleen Miller in 1955. They had four children, Isaac, Jr., Ivan, Ilene, and Kathleen.
Haggins, Isaac Sr. Interview by J. Mark Souther. 6 Aug. 2013. Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 990056.
Michney, Todd M. Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.