1913 : Richard H. Austin Born, First African American to Hold Statewide Office in Michigan

May 6, 2023 all-day

Portrait of Richard H. Austin from Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor, 1996

Richard H. Austin was a man of firsts. Not only was he the first black Michigander elected to statewide office, other than the Michigan Supreme Court, he also was Michigan’s longest-serving secretary of state, holding the office from 1970 through 1994. He was also Michigan’s first black certified public accountant, earning his degree from the Detroit Institute of Technology, and he was the first black Wayne County auditor. We can thank him for vehicle registration tabs, which allow us to replace stickers every year instead of the whole license plate, and for mail-in registration renewals. He also helped make voter registration and plate renewal simultaneous.

Sources: Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB), Michigan Department of Transportation, Senate Fiscal Agency.

Justin A. Hinkley, “Murray who? Meet state office buildings’ namesakes”, Lansing State Journal, October 27, 2015.

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