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Richard H. Austin Papers

 Collection
Identifier: UP000421
Part I: The period covered by the collection is 1964-1971, with the bulk of material concerned with the period of 1966- 1970.

Among the Correspondents are: William L. Cahalan; Mildred M. Jeffrey; Jerome P. Cavanagh; Frank J. Kelley; John Conyers, Jr.; Sander Levin; Charles Diggs; Emil Lockwood; George C. Edwards; James McNeely; Max M. Fisher; Walter P. Reuther; Douglas Fraser; Jackie Vaughn III; Roman Gribbs; G. Mennen Williams; Fred Harris; Coleman A. Young; Joseph L. Hudson

Among important topics and organizations are: Areawide Health Operating Committee County Government Reorganization Democratic Party of Michigan Detroit High School Study Commission Elections: 1964 Congressional Race, 1966 Board of Auditors Race, 1969 Detroit Mayoral Race, 1970 Michigan Secretary of State Race Jefferson - Jackson Dinners (1967-1970) League for the Handicapped Mayors Committee for Human Resources Development NAACP NAACP Fight for Freedom Dinners (1965-1968) New Detroit, Inc Tax Reform Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) Tribute to Joe Louis United Community Services Wayne Couty Board of Auditors Wayne County Millage Proposals, including 1968 Proposition #1 YMCA

Series Description: Series 1, Wayne County: Includes correspondence, clippings, meeting notices and minutes, reports and studies of Wayne County government and organizations which either are related to the county or are multi-county in scope.

Series 2, General Files: It includes correspondence, clippings, meeting notices and minutes, reports and studies of organizations and activities not related strictly to Wayne County. Here will be found the bulk of the material concerning Detroit, Michigan, and occasionally the nation. Also, the political activities, including all the campaigns are filed here.

Series 3, Reports and Publications: It includes 9 folders or notebooks pertaining to a variety Publications or subjects. They were placed in their separate series primarily because of their bulky nature.
Part II: This collection contains newspaper clippings about Austin and Roman Gribb’s mayoral campaign, Austin’s professional accomplishments, and Detroit’s political climate in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Additionally, this collection holds documents, speeches, and correspondence about Austin’s bid for mayor, as well as his Secretary of State campaign. This collection also consists of correspondence and meeting minutes from the Wayne County Board of Auditors, United Way of Southeastern Michigan, Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, and the Luella Hannah Memorial Foundation.

Important Subjects: Detroit (Mich.) Michigan. Department of State National Association for the Advancement of Colored People National Association of Black Accountants United Way Wayne County (Mich.). Board of County Auditors

Important Names: Austin, Richard H. Booker T. Washington Business Association Gribbs, Roman S., 1925-

Dates

  • 1930 - 1994
  • Majority of material found within 1968 - 1980

Creator

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.

Extent

36.25 Linear Feet ((68 MB, 14 SB, 2 OS), 1 reel)

Abstract

Mr. Austin, who in 1941 became Michigan's first black certified public accountant, has been active in Detroit, Wayne County, and Michigan Democratic politics and civic clubs for many years. During the period 1961-63, he was a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention; 1963-65, co-chairman of the Michigan Commission on Legislative Apportionment; 1962, elected to the Wayne County Board of Supervisors; 1964, lost the Congressional race against John Conyers, Jr.; 1966, won a seat on the Wayne County Board of Auditors; 1969, defeated by Roman Gribbs in the Detroit mayoralty race; 1970, elected Michigan's Secretary of State. The material in the collection relates to these topics and to numerous civic and professional organizations to which he belonged. Among the correspondents are Jerome P. Cavanagh, John Conyers, Jr., Charles Diggs, Fred Harris, Hubert Humphrey, Mildred Jeffrey, James McNeely, Walter Reuther, and G. Mennen Williams.

Part 2 of the Richard H. Austin Papers contains newspaper clippings about Austin and Roman Gribb’s mayoral campaign, Austin’s professional accomplishments, and Detroit’s political climate in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Additionally, this collection holds documents, speeches, and correspondence about Austin’s bid for mayor, as well as his Secretary of State campaign. This collection also consists of correspondence and meeting minutes from the Wayne County Board of Auditors, United Way of Southeastern Michigan, Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, and the Luella Hannah Memorial Foundation.

History

Part I: Richard Austin was born on May 16, 1913 in Alabama. His father, who was a coal miner, died in 1924 when Richard was only eleven years old, The following year, his mother decided to move to Detroit, where while growing up on Hastings Street Austin worked as a bootblack.

Mt. Austin attended Garfield Elementary and Cass Technical High in Detroit and graduated first in his class from the latter. Because of his prowess in sports, especially track in which he served as team captain at Cass Tech, Austin was awarded an athletic scholarship to Wayne University. The necessity of supporting his mother and two brothers forced him to leave the university for a job as a shoe clerk.

From 1932-1937, Austin worked days and went to the Detroit Institute of Technology in the evenings. A degree in accounting was earned. In 1941, Austin became Michigan's first Black Certified Public Accountant and in the next year he organized his own firm. (As of this writing, he was the senior partner of the Austin, Washington and Cavenport CPA firm).

On August 18, 1939, he was married to Ida Dawson. Their only child is a daughter Hazel.

Austin has had an active life in professional, political, and civic affairs. Among his professional business association memberships are: Board of Directors of the Michigan Association of CPAs; American Institute of CPA's and the American Accounting Association; the Economic Club of Detroit; the Greater Detroit Board of Commerce; and the Booker T. Washington Business Association. He is officer and director of several companies and institutions, among which include the Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance Company, the Southwest Detroit Hospital Development Corporation, and the Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery Association.

The political scene of Detroit, Wayne County, and Michigan has been of major interest to Austin. In 1961 -1962, he served as a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention. Also in 1962, he was a member of the Michigan State Board of Equalization and was elected to the Wayne County Board of Supervisors. From 1963-1965, he served as co-chairman of the Michigan Commission on Legislative Apportionment. The plan which he co-authored was adopted as the system to be implemented in Michigan. In the U.S Congressional race of 1964, Austin was narrowly defeated (40 votes) by John Conyers, Jr. for the party's nomination. In 1966, he waged a successful campaign for a seat on the Wayne County Board of Auditors, on which he served until 1970. Perhaps his most publicized campaign nationally was his race for the office of the mayor of Detroit in 1969, in which he lost a narrow race to Roman Gribbs. Austin won the office of Michigan's Secretary of State in 1970. Additional political activities include memberships on the Wayne County Democratic Committee, the State Central Finance Committee (Dem.), and the Democratic Committee on National Priorities.

The list of civic affairs in which he participated is quite lengthy. Among the organizations in which Austin served on the Board of Directors are the following: Areawide Health Planning Committee, Big Brothers, Detroit Area Council Boy Scouts of America, Detroit Branch NAACP, Detroit Metropolitan Industrial Development Corporation, Detroit Urban League, Greater Detroit Area Hospital Council, League for the Handicapped, Mayor's Committee for Human Resources Development, Metropolitan Detroit YMCA, Neighborhood Service Organization, New Detroit, Inc. (Policy Advisory Committee), Society for Emotionally Disturbed Children, SEMCOG (Treasurer), United Community Services (Treasurer), and United Foundation.

He served as trustee for the Burton Mercy Hospital, Metropolitan Fund of Detroit, Inc., and the Michigan Health and Social Security Research Institute, Inc. He organized and chaired the Randolph W. Wallace Kidney Research Foundation. In addition he was vice-chairman of Citizens for Schools (Detroit), and president of the Optimist Club of Central Detroit. Activities in the Transportation and Land Use Study included the role of management consultant.

Austin was also a member of ADA, Black Elected Officials Caucus, Brewster Old Timers, Citizens Advisory Committee on Higher Education, Council of Precinct Delegates, Detroit Citizens Income Tax Study, Detroit Council for Political Education, Michigan Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Michigan Tax Study of 1958, Policy-Advisory Committee of the Detroit Total Action Against Poverty, Polish Black Alliance, the United Community Services Budget Review Committee, and others.

In many cases, it seems unnecessary to present an extensive list of various organizations joined and positions held by an individual. But in reference to this collection, it appears to be not only necessary but also useful. For when one examines the contents of the collection, one finds much pertaining to various organizations in which Austin had either direct or indirect contact.
Part II: Richard Austin, a Detroit mayoral candidate in 1969, was the first African American Certified Public Accountant in Michigan. Austin created Richard Austin & Company and he used his accounting firm to assist other African American accountants in gaining experience in the field. To honor his work, his wife Ida Austin created the Richard Austin Fund for Accounting Excellency at Wayne State University in 1989.

Following Richard Austin’s bid for mayor in 1969, he was elected to the Secretary of State, a position in which he served four consecutive terms from 1971 to 1994. As Secretary of State, Austin fought for seatbelt safety laws, motorcycle helmet laws, and child passenger safety laws. Because of his efforts in encouraging traffic safety, Austin was placed into the Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor in 1996.

During his time as Secretary, Austin also served on numerous boards of trustees, including: United Way of Southeastern Michigan, Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center, Harper Hospital, and the Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation. Richard Henry Austin died from complications associated with Alzheimer’s Disease in D etroit on April 20, 2001 at the age of 87.

Arrangement

Part I: Arranged in 3 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-19), Series 2 (Boxes 20-64), and Series 3 (Paige Boxes 1-2). Folders are arranged alphabetically by name, topic, subject, or title.
Part II: Folders are listed by their location within each box. The collection is grouped topically and then loosely chronologically, so any given subject may be dispersed throughout the entire collection.

Acquisition

Part I: The papers of Richard H. Austin were deposited with the Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs on November 17, 1970, by Mr. Austin.
Part II: Part 2 was transferred from the State Archives of Michigan in 2001.

Related Materials

Part II: Harper Hospital Records, Joseph J. Kowalski Papers, Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation Letters, NAACP Detroit Branch Records, United Community Services Community Information Service Records

Transfers

Boxes 84 and 85 were transferred to the Reuther's audiovisual department.

Processing History

Part I: Processed and finding aid written by PH in June 1971.
Part II: Part 2 was processed and finding aid updated by Meghan McGowan.
Title
Guide to the Richard H. Austin Papers
Status
completed
Author
Processed by PH.
Date
1971-06
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Revision Statements

  • 2015-03-25: Part 2 processed and finding aid updated by Meghan McGowan.

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA