Detroit's loss

December 02, 1997

WHEN COLEMAN A. Young became mayor of Detroit in 1974, the first African American to hold that office, he made headlines -- and he continued to do so throughout his 19 years as the Motor City's chief executive. While he he was a "first," he was also one of the last of the big-city political bosses.

Mr. Young, who died Saturday at the age of 79, will br remembered -- fondly by some, not so fondly by others -- for his efforts to keep Detroit afloat despite its loss of jobs and population, staggeringly high crime rate and school system that was one of the nation's worst.

In declining health, Mr. Young may have had his place in history in mind when he wrote in 1994: "I think I've done pretty damn well with what I've had to work with [as mayor of Detroit]. . . Hell no, I don't think Detroit is better off than it was when I became mayor. The auto industry certainly isn't better off than it was in 1974. The job market certainly isn't better off than it was then. How the hell could Detroit be better off? But I damn sure think it's better off for me becoming mayor."

His critics, might disagree. But few would argue that he left his mark on Detroit and on American political history.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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