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:
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.
William G. Thompson
Thompson served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
Hazen S. Pingree
The "Potato Mayor" later served as the governor of the state from 1897-1900.
William C. Maybury
Maybury served as a U.S. Representative from Michigan before becoming mayor.
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.
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."
Murphy later became Governor of Michigan (1937-38), U.S. Attorney General (1939-40), and Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1940-49).
Edward J. Jeffries
Jeffries held office during the 1943 Detroit Race Riots that started on the bridge to Belle Isle.
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.
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.
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.
One of Gribb's legacies was his work to make the Detroit Renaissance Center a reality.
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.
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.
Kenneth Cockrel, Jr.
Cockrel came into office as the President of the City Council when Kilpatrick resigned.
Detroit / PoliticalGraveyard.com
The rise and fall of Detroit -- A Timeline / TheWeek.com
DetroitHistorical.org (Frank Murphy, James R. Williams, Timeline)
Albert E. Cobo / Detroit1701.org
Louis C. Miriani, 90, former Detroit mayor / NYTimes.com
Miriani Crackdown / Detroits-Great-Rebellion.com
Jerome P. Cavanagh / FindaGrave.com
Roman Gribbs Looks Back / DomeMagazine.com