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Coleman Young

Coleman Alexander Young (1918-1997) served as mayor of Detroit, Michigan from 1974 to 1994.

Young was born in 1918 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His family moved to Detroit in 1923, where he graduated from Eastern High School. He worked for Ford Motor Company, from which he was shortly blacklisted for involvement in labor and civil rights activism. He later worked for the United States Postal Service. During the second World War, he served in the 477th Medium-Bomber Group of the U. S. Army[?] Air Corps as a bombardier and navigator.

Young's involvement in progressive and dissident organizations including The Progressive Party[?], the AFL-CIO, and The National Negro Labor Council[?] made him powerful enemies, including the FBI and HUAC, where he refused to testify. He protested segregation in the Army, racial discrimination in the UAW[?].

In 1960, he was elected as a delegate to draft Michigan's State Constitution. In 1964 he was elected to the Michigan State Senate. He narrowly defeated Police Commissioner John F. Nichols (who would later become Oakland County Sheriff) to become Detroit's first African American mayor. He won the four subsequent terms by very wide margins.

His administration was controversial, and he found himself the subject of continued FBI scrutiny amid allegations of contract kickbacks[?]. He was criticized for his confrontational style toward suburban interests, and the apparent diversion of city resources to downtown Detroit from other neighborhoods.

Young was a tireless advocate for federal funding for Detroit construction projects, and his administration saw the completion of the Renaissance Center[?], People Mover, Joe Louis Arena[?] and several other Detroit landmarks. He also negotiated with General Motors to build its new "Poletown" plant at the site of the former Dodge Main plant. This was very controversial, as the new plant was larger than the old one and the deal involved many evictions via eminent domain.

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