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Jerome P. Cavanagh Photographs and Other Material

Identifier: UAV000379

Scope and Content

The collection consists primarily of photographic prints, the majority of which were taken during Jerome Cavanagh's terms as Mayor of Detroit, showing him working, attending social events, meeting visitors to Detroit, and talking to prominent Detroit businessmen, politicians, and union leaders. They cover important events such as the 1968 Olympic Bid, visits from Lyndon B. Johnson, and the aftermath of the 1967 unrest. Also included in the collection is memorabilia, publications, press coverage, and assorted ephemera documenting events such as his 1966 Senate campaign, 1968 Olympic information, as well as Cavanagh's interests, public appearances, and routine tasks of a city government official.


  • 1960 - 1979
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 1969


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.
Patrons must make an appointment with the AV Department prior to visiting.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.
For image reproduction, contact the AV Department.


Jerome P. Cavanagh (1928-1979) was mayor of the city of Detroit from 1962 until 1970. Born in Detroit on June 16, 1928, Cavanagh was one of six children born to Irish immigrant parents. His father was a worker at Ford Motor Company's Rouge plant. He was brought up in Detroit's Grand River-Livernois neighborhood and attended Detroit schools. He graduated from St. Cecelia's parish high school in 1946, from the University of Detroit, where he majored in political science, in 1950 and with an LLB from the University of Detroit Law School in 1954.

Cavanagh practiced law in Detroit from 1955 to 1962; he was a member of the law firm of Sullivan, Romanoff, Cavanagh & Nelson. His only governmental service before becoming mayor was as a member of the Wayne County Board of Supervisors and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport Board of Zoning Appeals, but he had for years been active in politics. In 1949 and 1950 he served as chairman of the Wayne County Young Democrats and on several occasions as a delegate to county, state and national Democratic conventions.

At age 33 Cavanagh won an upset victory over incumbent Mayor Louis C. Miriani and became one of the country's youngest big-city mayors. He won a second four-year term in 1966 by an overwhelming majority. He was unsuccessful, however, in his 1970 race for the Democratic Senatorial nomination and in a 1974 race for the office of Governor of Michigan.

During his eight years as Mayor of Detroit, Cavanagh was nationally recognized as an outstanding urban leader. In 1966 he became the first person ever to serve simultaneously as president of the nation's two leading organizations of municipal officials, the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

In 1963 the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce honored Cavanagh as one of the country's ten "Outstanding Young Men." Life magazine named him as one of the 100 most important young men in the country, part of the "take-over" generation. Newsweek named him urban America's "most articulate spokesman" in 1967.

Cavanagh was mayor during the Detroit riot of 1967. He worked to rebuild the city, obtaining federal assistance and positioning Detroit as the first Demonstration City of the federal Model Cities Program he helped formulate.

Cavanagh's accomplishments as mayor of Detroit were numerous. They included the definition of urban problems as a national problem. After the riot he established the New Detroit Committee to help reshape the city. He also set up the Mayor's Development Team, an attempt to make municipal government more responsive to the people's needs. Two of his most controversial efforts were the establishment of the Tactical Mobile Units in the Police Department and the implementing of strong measures for a better racial balance in the Police Department.

He also installed new management techniques, accelerating the conversion to computer systems, expanded and instituted programs for senior citizens, modernized the water system and updated the Detroit City Airport. He expanded the Cultural Center by implementing federal grants for additions to the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Main Library and the Historical Museum as part of a new master plan for a 200-acre cultural complex and he originated numerous summer activities throughout the city, with emphasis on special events to attract people to the downtown area.

Cavanagh stimulated an unprecedented convention boom in Detroit by correcting major flaws in the operation of Cobo Hall, the city's convention facility; he expanded the city's tax base by successfully proposing a city income tax; he launched the Urban Corps program of placing college students in special municipal assignments; and he initiated job programs for the hard-core unemployed and for city youth from underprivileged families. His interest in laboring people was evidenced in his official support of the United Farm Workers' national grape boycott. He originated the family community center concept, in a number of Detroit neighborhoods.

President John F. Kennedy appointed Cavanagh to The National Advisory Committee on Area Redevelopment in 1962. After the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Cavanagh was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to the National Citizen's Committee for Community Relations. In 1964 he was named to serve on a presidential panel preparing legislative recommendations to meet the needs of metropolitan areas.

Other appointments included: Special Advisory Commission to President Johnson on Manpower Problems; Advisory Committee to President Johnson on the Youth Opportunity Program; Public Official Advisory Council for the Office of Economic Opportunity; and Governor's Special Commission on Urban Problems.

Cavanagh helped to establish the National Urban Coalition. He served as Chairman of the Citizen's Advisory Committee for Wayne County Community College. He was Crusade Chairman of the Michigan Division of the American Cancer Society for 1972. Cavanagh also served on the Board of Directors of the Sickle Cell Detection and Information Program, on the Board of Directors of the Detroit Chapter of the American Red Cross, and on the Advisory Board of the United Foundation. He was also one of the first ten Americans selected as an Honorary Fellow of the Kennedy Institute at Harvard University

Cavanagh married Mary Helen Martin in 1952, and with her had eight children: Mark, Patrick, David, Mary Therese, Christopher, Philip, Jerome Celestin, and Elizabeth Angela. The Cavanaghs separated in 1968, while he was Mayor, then divorced. In 1973, Cavanagh married Kathleen Disser, and there was another child, Katie. He remained close to all his children (many of whom lived with him) until his death.

After his term of office as Mayor he worked for the law firm of Cavanagh & Toohey. He taught at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he then made his home, as Professor of Public Policy. He also was President of Urban Synergistics, Inc., an urban consulting firm which he formed with former Mayor of New York City, Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Cavanagh died at the age of 51 on November 27, 1979.


9 Linear Feet ((9 MB, 4 OS, 59 negatives, 16 slides).) : Photographic prints, memorabilia, publications, film negatives, and positive Ektachrome transparencies.

10.25 Gigabytes (351 TIFFs)


The Jerome P. Cavanagh Photographs and Other Material consists of numerous photographs, the majority of which were taken during his time in office. These photographs cover events such as the 1968 Olympic Bid, visits from Lyndon B. Johnson, aftermath of the 1967 unrest, and Mayor Cavanagh with various prominent Detroit business people, union members, and politicians. Also included in the collection is memorabilia from his 1966 Senate campaign, 1968 Olympic information, and other various memorabilia during his time in office.


Arranged by format. The majority of the photographic prints (Box 1-8) are further arranged alphabetically by subject.


The papers of Jerome P. Cavanagh were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs between 1970 and 1982 by Mr. Cavanagh and his widow, Kathleen McGauley.

Other Copies

Select photographs in Boxes 1-8 have been digitized.

Related Materials

Jerome P. Cavanagh Papers, George C. Edwards, Jr. Papers, Maurice Kelman Papers, New Detroit, Inc. Records, Mel Ravitz Papers Part I and II, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) Records.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Talia Hofacker on November 16, 2011. Content added and arrangement and description updated by Deborah Rice on March 31, 2017.
Guide to the Jerome P. Cavanagh Photographs and Other Material
In Progress
Processed by Talia Hofacker. Partially reprocessed by Deborah Rice on 2017-09-06.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA