The First Black Republican Mayor dies. Robert Blackwell was Mayer of Highland Pak, Michigan, Served Under Governor Romney, was also President of the Local UAW.
Blackwell, who was in his 80s, was mayor of Highland Park for two different stints in the '60s and '70s. First elected in 1968, he was a flashy character as well known for keeping the city afloat as he was for holding news conferences in the topless go-go bar next to city hall.
“This man was just fantastic,” said Juanita Parnell, Blackwell’s executive secretary who now is assistant to his son, Highland Park Emergency Financial Manager Arthur Blackwell.
Robert Blackwell was born in Meridian, Miss., and came to Highland Park in 1950 after graduating from Howard University in Washington with a degree in chemistry. He was a production planner for Chrysler and served three terms as president of his UAW local.
He entered the political arena as a Republican in the 1960s, and was appointed executive secretary of the state Labor Mediation Board by then-Gov. George Romney in 1963.