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Dolores Graham so earnestly believed that having a home of one's own was so much a part of the American Dream that she put her life's work into fighting for low-income Metro Detroiters to buy homes.

Mrs. Graham, a longtime Highland Park resident, became among the first African American women in Metro Detroit to own her own real estate company when she opened Dolores Graham Realty, her family said. She died Saturday, March 16, 2019, of complications from heart disease. She was 82.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mrs. Graham graduated from Highland Park High School in 1951. She married in 1953 and worked as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service to help support her family.

Mrs. Graham later worked as a clerk for former U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit,  in the mid-1960s after his election. Later, Mrs. Graham attended the Center for Creative Studies, where she studied interior design. It was at the college that she became interested in real estate and later attended Middleton Real Estate Training School.

She later worked for Bowers Realty and became an office manager for Century 21 Elegant Homes in Detroit as she worked toward getting a real estate license, which she obtained in 1987, after which she opened her own real estate company, Dolores Graham Realty.

Mrs. Graham worked for the real estate division in the city of Highland Park for Mayors Martha Scott and Linsey Porter, said her family. Mrs. Graham also worked with the community group ACORN,  helping low-income families buy abandoned houses in Detroit.

Mrs. Graham's family said she was inspired by her grandmother, Annie Bell Woods, who owned and operated a hotel/boarding house in segregated Louisiana during the 1920s and 1930s, when few African Americans owned property.

"She was always helping people with real estate problems, whether it was buying, selling or renting.  We worked together many times over the years, and she was always so kind toeveryone," said Gwen Mingo, a real estate agent who worked with Mrs. Graham.

Her daughter, Renee Graham-Buckner, said her mother was willing to work with anyone who was trying to become a first-time homeowner, no matter their financial situation.

 "She realized the importance of property ownership and it's connection to wealth building for everyone," said Graham-Buckner. "Her work with other realtors inspired many who have become investors and real estate brokers today. She also recognized the opportunity for minorities to become first-time land owners, especially after so many left Detroit after the riots. What others saw as abandoned properties, she viewed as positive business opportunities for those left behind."

Mrs. Graham was a member of Tau Gamma Delta sorority for business women. 

Other survivors include her daughters, Orell Graham-Diggs and Joni Barkley; two sons, Darryl and Joseph; a sister, Priscilla Teague; and six grandchildren.

Mrs. Graham was preceded by a granddaughter, Latonia Jean Graham, and her brother, Donald Ray Parker.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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