List of Detroit Mayors

1825 to Present

Detroit was originally a French settlement founded in 1701, which explains the name of the city, as well as many of the city's original streets. It served thereafter as a fur-trading post and eventually a frontier military station (Fort Pontchartrain). Near the end of the 1700s, it  was held for almost 40 years by the British before being surrendered to the United States in 1796.

While the city was incorporated in 1802, the growing pains of the territory within which it sat, the fire of 1805, and the War of 1812 created a lot of upheaval. Eventually, the Territorial Legislature officially recognized the city's government in 1824.

As we take a look back at the history of the city and its mayors, it is ironic to note that the city motto in 1827 read:

"We hope for better days; it shall rise from the ashes."

While the list of the city's mayors is a long one, several of the early mayors served for just a year, although sometimes on a couple of separate occasions:

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John R. Williams

1825, 1829-30, 1844-47

Williams is not only considered Detroit's first mayor, he helped write the City Charter in 1824. He went on to serve as the Mayor of Detroit on three separate occasions. John R Street in downtown Detroit was named after Williams, and Joseph Campau Street in Hamtramck was named after Williams' uncle and former business partner. 

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Henry Jackson Hunt

 1826

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Jonathan Kearsley

 1826, 1829

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John Biddle

1827-28

Biddle later served in the Michigan legislature.

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Marshall Chapin

 1831

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Levi Cook

 1832, 1834-36

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Charles Christopher Trowbridge

 1834

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Andrew Mack

 1834

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Henry Howard

 1837

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Augustus S. Porter

 1838

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Asher B. Bates

 1838

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De Garmo Johnes

 1839

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Zina Pitcher

 1840-41, 1843

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Douglass Houghton

 1842

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James A. VanDyke

 1847

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Frederick Buhl

 1848

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Charles Howard

 1849-50

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John Ladue

 1850-51

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Zachariah Chandler

 1851-52

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John H. Harmon

 1852-53

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Oliver Moulton Hyde

 18540-55, 1856-57

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Henry Ledyard

1855-56 

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John Patton

1858-59 

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Christian H. Buhl

1860-61

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William C. Duncan

1962-63 

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Merrill I. Mills

1866-67 

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William W. Wheaton

1868-71 

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Hugh Moffat

1872-75 

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Alexander Lewis

1876-77 

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George C. Langdon

1878-79 

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William G. Thompson

1880-83 

Thompson served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

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Stephen Benedict Grummond

1884-85 

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M.H. Chamberlain

1886-87 

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John Pridgeon, Jr.

1888-1889 

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Hazen S. Pingree

1890-97

The "Potato Mayor" later served as the governor of the state from 1897-1900. 

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William Rickert

1897 

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William C. Maybury

1897-1904

Maybury served as a U.S. Representative from Michigan before becoming mayor. 

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George Codd

1905-06 

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William B. Thompson

1907-08 

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Oscar B. Marx

1913-18 

Marx served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

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James Couzens

1919-22 

Couzens resigned to become a U.S. Senator.

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John C. Lodge

1922-23, 1924, 1927-29 

"The Lodge" Freeway, otherwise known as the freeway portion of M-10 that runs from downtown Detroit to the I-696 interchange in Southfield, was named after Lodge. 

Lodge was a reporter and businessman before becoming mayor.

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Frank Doremus

1923-24 

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Joseph Martin

1924 

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John Smith

1924-27, 1933 

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Charles Bowles

1930 

Bowles had the dubious distinction of being supported by the Ku Klux Klan during his first campaign for mayor. He ran three times before finally being elected into office, only to be recalled eight months into his term of office for corruption and "tolerating lawlessness."  

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Frank Murphy

1930-33 

Murphy later became Governor of Michigan (1937-38), U.S. Attorney General (1939-40), and Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1940-49).

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Frank Couzens

 1933-38

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Richard Reading

1938-40 

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Edward J. Jeffries

1940-48 

Jeffries held office during the 1943 Detroit Race Riots that started on the bridge to Belle Isle.

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Eugene Van Antwerp

1948-49 

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Albert Cobo

1950-57 

Cobo was known for helping to develop the expressways and other projects in downtown Detroit, including a large convention center ("Cobo Hall") that was later named after him. Cobo died while in office.

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Louis Miriani

1957-62 

Miriani, as President of City Council, became mayor when Cobo died in office. He was, however, eventually elected into office. He was known for urban renewal and development projects that sometimes inflamed racial issues in the city. Several years after serving as mayor, Miriani was convicted of Federal Income Tax evasion.

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Jerome Cavanagh

1962-70 

Cavanagh, at age 33, was the youngest mayor elected to office. He was something of a media darling and utilized his friendships with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to help obtain funding to rebuild Detroit. While he worked tirelessly for urban renewal, he was also known for his efforts to improve racial relations, that is until he was criticized for his handling of the 1967 Detroit Race Riots.

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Roman Gribbs

1970-74 

One of Gribb's legacies was his work to make the Detroit Renaissance Center a reality. 

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Coleman Young

1974-1993 

Young has the distinction of holding the Office of Mayor for the longest period of time. Young was a long-time advocate for racial equality.

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Dennis Archer

1993-2001 

Before becoming mayor, Archer was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court. After his tenure as mayor, Archer became the President of the American Bar Association.

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Kwame Kilpatrick

2002-08 

Kilpatrick resigned the office because of several scandals.

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Kenneth Cockrel, Jr.

2008-2009 

Cockrel came into office as the President of the City Council when Kilpatrick resigned.

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Dave Bing

2009 to Present 

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Sources

Detroit / PoliticalGraveyard.com

DetroitHistorical.org (Frank Murphy, James R. Williams, Timeline)

Charles Bowles and Albert E. Cobo / OurCampaigns.com

Albert E. Cobo / Detroit1701.org

Miriani Crackdown / Detroits-Great-Rebellion.com

Jerome P. Cavanagh / FindaGrave.com

Roman Gribbs Looks Back / DomeMagazine.com

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