Former city council member, pastor Hood Sr. dies at 92

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The Rev. Nicholas Hood Sr., a former Detroit City Councilman and pastor in the city, died Sunday at the age of 92, his son Steve Hood confirmed via social media.

Hood’s careers in politics and the ministry both spanned decades.

On Sept. 1, 1958, Hood took over as pastor of the Plymouth United Church of Christ on Warren Avenue, a post he would hold until July 1, 1984.

In 1965, just short of a decade before Coleman Young became the city’s first black mayor, and two years before the 1967 Riots, Hood was elected to the Detroit City Council, a post he would hold through his retirement in 1994. Hood was only the city’s second black city councilman at that point.

At both the church and the city council, his son, Nicholas Hood III, took over for him. Hood III gave up the council seat in 2001 to run for mayor in a losing effort in a field that included then-House Minority Leader Kwame Kilpatrick and Gil Hill. The ministry, though, he never left. Hood Sr. served in an emeritus role at the church, the first in Plymouth United’s history.

Hood is the third former Detroit politician to die in the last month, after Hill and former Detroit Mayor Roman Gribbs, who was the city’s last white mayor until Mike Duggan was elected in 2013.

In a statement, Duggan said: “Rev. Hood was a dedicated servant of his God and of his city and was a true icon of social justice. Everything he strived for and achieved as civil rights leader, a minister and an honorable member of City Council was for the sole purpose of lifting up the people of Detroit.”

Gov. Rick Snyder said, in a statement on behalf of himself and his wife Sue, that Hood “leaves behind a legacy of public service through his work within his church and his community. He chose to make Detroit his home and spent decades supporting the state’s most vulnerable people. ... He will be remembered as a strong and compassionate leader who aimed to create a future that is better for all (Michiganians).”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans in a statement said that he would “always admire Rev. Nicholas Hood Sr. for his political courage. He vigorously fought against discrimination; rallied the community to support the disadvantaged and created new opportunities for people displaced by urban renewal. Rev. Hood’s activism helped to shape the landscape of leadership in the city of Detroit.”

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, in a statement released Monday afternoon, said she is “deeply saddened by the passing of Rev. Nick Hood, a champion of the Civil Rights Movement, devoted minister, and dedicated Detroit public servant.”

Stabenow touted Hood’s status as a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and said the pastor/politico “committed his life to breaking down the barriers of prejudice to achieve social justice.”

Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator, Carl Levin, took time after a ceremony dedicating a destroyer ship in his name to reflect on Hood’s career.

“He helped bring the city together,” Levin said. “Nick was somebody who loved this city deeply.”

Levin noted that while running for his second term on the council he earned the most votes in the election and became council president. Hood, who had been on the council longer, came in second. But there was never a moment of jealously, Levin added.

“We were truly the best friends. He always supported me. He was that kind of a guy,” he said. “He was the opposite of petty. He was generous and civil. He had the qualities you want in a public official and in a religious leader.”

In a blog post on his website, Hood III wrote about how his father’s accomplishments helped him find peace with his death, which occurred after 9 p.m. Sunday. A previous blog post described the elder Hood as facing “multiple health challenges.”

“I kept reminding myself that he had lived a good life for 92 years and had accomplished much more than most of us could in four life times,” Hood III wrote. “(He was) elected and served on the Detroit City Council for 28 years; developed over 40 acres of housing in the ‘Black Bottom’ of Detroit; constructed a $1.6 million church; established a mental health ministry; laid the ground work for the first church-sponsored charter school in Michigan; (was) an original signer for the SCLC in New Orleans; encouraged (former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Andrew Young to go into the Ministry and preached the ordination sermon for Andrew Young, forced the city of New Orleans to pave the streets around his church and so much more. Thinking of his accomplishments helped to take away the sting of his death.”

In 1946, Hood became the first black man to graduate from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. He later studied divinity at Yale, which is where he met Andrew Young.

Hood is survived by sons Nicholas III and Steve.

Christine Ferretti contributed.