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John Elliott, a former Detroit Federation of Teachers president, has died, officials with the union announced Wednesday.

He led the group from 1981-2001 and "holds the distinction of being the first African American to serve in the post," Terrence Martin, its current president, said in a statement.

Other details, including funeral arrangements, were not available Wednesday night.

Elliott started teaching in Detroit Public Schools in 1961, according to the release.

He rose through the ranks in the Detroit Federation of Teachers, becoming a union administrative assistant in 1966, then an executive board member and executive vice president starting in 1968, the union said.

"In 1987, he was elected to serve as Michigan AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, making him the first African American to hold one of the top posts in organization history," Martin wrote.

Elliott led the union in 1992, when a four-week strike led to pay increases of 4% for the 1992-93 academic year and 3% for 1993-94, according to the DFT website.

During his tenure, teachers also went on strike in 1999, according to Detroit News archives.

In October 2000, at age 69, Elliott said he would not seek re-election to allow new leadership a chance to be part of the district's long-term reform process, The News reported at the time.

"In every endeavor, Brother Elliott remained to committed to his brothers and sisters in labor as well as Detroit’s students," Martin said.

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