With elections being held this month across the nation, this year’s results were especially pleasing to one alumnus. Kwame Kilpatrick, a 1992 political science graduate, was elected mayor of Detroit, the nation’s 10th largest city, on Nov. 11. Kilpatrick, 31, arrived at FAMU in 1988. He graduated with a 3.04 grade point average, and was a football player and a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Kilpatrick made a name for himself on the football field. “He was a great football player and you knew he was going somewhere,” said Keith Miles, the voice of FAMU football and general manager of the FAMU radio station 90.5 The Beat. “He had a lot of guts; he didn’t fit the stereotype of athletes not being smart,” Miles said. His football career came to an end when he began to experience back problems .
After graduating, Kilpatrick received his law degree from the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University. In 1996, he was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.
He quickly rose in status to become the first African-American Democratic Caucus leader.
A colleague in the house, floor leader Gilda Jacobs said of Kilpatrick, “I wasn’t surprised at all that Kwame won the election. I think he’ll do a great job and he has already invested himself in Detroit.” Kilpatrick was a trailblazer in the House. After years of bipartisan politics, he helped the House work together to get laws passed.
“He’s a great leader. One of his biggest accomplishments was opening up communication between House Democrats and House Republicans,” Jacobs said.
No one could have predicted such political success for mayor-elect Kilpatrick. “Everyone thought I was a madman, out of control. I was the dumbest guy in the world, now I’m a genius,” Kilpatrick said. Still, Kilpatrick has a very political gene pool.
His seat in the House once belonged to his mother. His father, Wayne County, Michigan chief of staff and his mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., are presently serving their constituents.
After defeating City Council President Gil Hill, the sky is the limit for Kilpatrick. He’s already participated in national politics, speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.
Right now though, Kilpatrick is concerned with improving Detroit. His slogan in the campaign was “Our Future… Right Here, Right Now.”
As he told the Detroit News, “People don’t want the same way. That vote says ‘let’s move forward, let’s start to create the change we need to make this city viable.’ His plans are to combat crime, make public transportation more efficient and beautify the city.