Coleman A. Young sworn in as Michigan senator on this day in 1964

    Coleman A. Young in 1964

    On Dec. 10, 1964, Coleman A. Young was officially sworn in as a member of the Michigan Senate.

    During his nine-year tenure, Young, who had previously been an elected to the Michigan Constitutional Convention of 1961 and 1962, championed civil rights and collective bargaining issues.

    While in Lansing, Young served as minority floor leader and in 1968 became a Democratic National Committee member.  

    Garlin Gilchrist

    In the fall of 1968, the feisty Young told United Press International that he could envision a day when an African-American would serve as governor of Michigan. Although that has not happened yet, Democrat Garlin Gilchrist was elected this year, making him Michigan’s first African-American lieutenant governor.

    Young also described then-U.S. President-elect Richard Nixon as a “smooth-talking [Barry] Goldwater” and third-party U.S. presidential candidate and former Alabama Gov. George Wallace as a “Ku Kluxer without a sheet.”

    Finally, when describing himself, Young declared, “I’m a Negro first and a Democrat second.”

    Young went on to become Detroit’s first black mayor in 1973. He died in 1997. His son, Coleman Young II (D-Detroit) serves in the Michigan Senate and unsuccessfully ran for Detroit mayor in 2017.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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