Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young hosts GOP national convention • Michigan Advance


On July 10, 1980 Democratic Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young hosted a reception for Republican National Committee (RNC) members. It was held on the Bob-lo boat, a popular amusement park, along the Detroit River. 

The event was a lead-in to the RNC’s convention in Detroit, which nominated Ronald Reagan, a former California governor, as its choice for president. 

Young, a sitting Democratic National Committee vice chair, sought to woo both parties to the Motor City for their 1980 conventions. The Democrats ended up choosing New York City that year. Young later offered a bid for the Democratic Party convention in 1984, as well.  

“Mayor Young would do whatever it took to promote the city in a positive standpoint,” aaid former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice, told the Advance this week.   

It was a time when the Motor City had faced decades of resident flight and business disinvestment. Its population had fallen from 1.8 million residents in 1950 to 1.2 million residents in 1980. 

Young, who became Detroit’s first Black mayor in 1974, saw the convention opportunities as a way to help create excitement around Michigan’s largest city. He served five four-term terms from 1974 to 1994. 

Reagan in 1980 defeated then-Democratic President Jimmy Carter, who Young had strongly supported for years.

After Reagan’s election, Young described him as “pruneface.” The comment made headlines, in part, because Reagan was 69 at his inauguration and his age was an issue. The former movie actor served two terms in office from 1981 to 1989.  

“Old Pruneface, as I was fond of calling him — it was nothing personal, of course, just a way of calling attention to Reagan’s age during the campaign — abused Detroit for eight years…” Young wrote in his biography, “Hard Stuff:” The Autobiography of Coleman A.Young.” 

Young died in 1997; Reagan died in 2004.

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