Advance Notice: Briefs

On this day in 1994: Green becomes the first African American U.S. attorney in Michigan history 

By: - May 6, 2022 4:20 am

Saul Green photo

On May 6, 1994, Saul Green was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as U.S. attorney for Michigan’s Eastern District. The Detroit native became the first African American to hold the post. 

Green, who was nominated by Democratic President Bill Clinton, graduated in 1965 from Mackenzie High School and in 1969 from the University of Michigan. He earned a degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1972. He had been serving as Wayne County corporation counsel at the time of nomination. 

Green told the Advance on Wednesday that he is proud to have been able to increase the number of African American attorneys in the office during his 1994 to 2001 tenure and improve relationships between his team and local law enforcement agencies.   

“Being the first African American in history to be appointed to the position is noteworthy but when I sought that position I made it very clear that my perspective on accomplishing public safety was not going to be typical,” said Green, who had served in the office as a young lawyer in 1973 and is a former president of the Wolverine Bar Association, a professional organization made up of Black attorneys. 

Green told the Advance earlier this year that he was encouraged to apply for the University of Michigan by Willis Ward, a 1930s legendary scholar-athlete from Detroit, who later became a Wayne County Probate Court judge. 

Saul Green’s longtime Detroit neighborhood | Ken Coleman

Green also owns the Michigan Barber School on Detroit’s west side. The institution was founded by his father, Forrest Green, in 1947 on Hastings Street in the city’s legendary Black Bottom community. Forrest Green later was appointed by Gov. John Swainson, a Democrat, to Michigan’s Civil Service Commission in 1961 and later served as chair. He also was appointed to the Detroit Park and Recreation Commission and served as chair during Detroit Mayor Jerry Cavanagh’s tenure in the 1960s. The Detroit City Council appointed him as Detroit ombudsman in 1974.

After his U.S. attorney tenure ended in 2001, Saul Green served as city of Detroit deputy mayor between 2008 and 2011 during the Ken Cockrel Jr. and Dave Bing administrations. He is currently senior counsel for Miller Canfield law firm. 

Green’s private sector lawyer has involved monitoring the reform of law enforcement agencies, including the Cincinnati Police Department for six years and later Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, following Department of Justice investigations of allegations of police misconduct. 

Two African Americans have served as U.S. attorney for Michigan’s Eastern District after Green’s service. Jeffrey Collins, a President George W. Bush appointee, served in the position. Currently, Dawn Ison, a President Joe Biden appointee, holds the position.  

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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