On this day in 1933: Historic state House member Teola Hunter is born
Laina G. Stebbins graphic
Teola Hunter, the Michigan Legislature’s first woman to serve as House speaker pro tem, turns 90 on Sunday.
Hunter, who is African American, was born in Detroit and grew up on the city’s lower east side. She graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1949 and later earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1958 from University of Detroit Mercy and a master’s degree in elementary school guidance and counseling in 1971 from Wayne State University.
After working as an educator and preschool operator for Buttons & Bows, Inc., Hunter was elected to the Michigan House as a Democrat in 1980. She was elected speaker pro tem in 1987 and served in the post until 1992.
In 1973, state Rep. Matthew McNeely (D-Detroit) was elected House speaker pro tem and was the first African American to serve in the post.
This year, state Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) became House speaker, the first African American to serve in the post.
During the 1998 Michigan gubernatorial campaign, Democratic candidate Larry Owen selected Hunter as his running mate. However, one of Owen’s opponents, Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, defeated him in the August Democratic Primary. Gov. John Engler, a Republican, was reelected in the general election.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” said Hunter at the time. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and put my gym shoes on.”
“It shows diversity, and she knows the issues, and how the system works in Lansing,” Carla Webb, an aide to then-state Rep. Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit), told the Lansing State Journal at the time.
Hunter resigned from the Legislature in 1992 to become the first woman to serve as clerk in Wayne County, Michigan’s largest county.
After retiring from public service, Hunter returned to politics and was elected in 2009 to the Detroit Charter Revision Commission, a nine-member body that was charged with revising the city’s framework document.
Hunter resides on Detroit’s lower east side.
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