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Former Detroit Rep. Alma Stallworth dies, blazed trail for other Black lawmakers

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Longtime Detroit lawmaker and a founder of the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan Alma Stallworth died Tuesday, her family confirmed on Facebook. She was 87.

Stallworth's death prompted messages of consolation from the Detroit Legislative Caucus and the Michigan Democratic Party, who praised Stallworth as a "constant fixture in Detroit politics for decades."

Her son, Thomas Stallworth III, confirmed his mother's death on Facebook, noting that she had gone to be with her husband, "her partner of 65 years." 

Alma Stallworth

"Today the loss of mom almost a year after my dad leaves a hole in my heart the size of a crater!" Thomas Stallworth III said. "The out pouring of support by the friends God has provided reminds me of how blessed I am and that I'm not alone in feeling this loss."

Both Thomas Stallworth and his brother, Keith, are former state representatives. 

"We know all is good...as you can now rest in the arms of your lifelong love and our Lord!" Keith Stallworth wrote. 

Alma Stallworth served in the state House from 1970 to 2004, during which time she "recognized the lack of and need for Black voices in government and policy-making spaces," the Detroit Caucus said Wednesday in a statement. 

"Many of us serving today couldn't have done so without her work and dedication," the caucus said. "Rep. Stallworth will be greatly missed, and her legacy lives on in all of us."

Alma Stallworth paved her own path at a time when there wasn't one laid out for her, said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint.

While visiting with retired state Rep. Alma Stallworth, left, and Andella White, both of Detroit, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer greets longtime friend, supporter and Wayne County commissioner Joe Palamara at the inauguration celebration in the Grand Riverview Ballroom.

"A longtime public servant, champion for other Black lawmakers and dedicated advocate for children, Alma created a lasting legacy that will continue to benefit Michigan communities," Ananich said. "We will honor her by continuing her work of making our state a more fair, equal place."

Besides founding the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan, which develops policy and programs affecting Black communities in Michigan, Alma Stallworth was president and founder of the Black Child Development Institute, whose Detroit affiliate focused on literacy, child welfare and health policy. 

Alma Stallworth's "guidance and wise counsel" left a legacy that "will be felt for decades to come," said Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes. 

"The sparkle of pride in her eyes, when she acknowledged me as the first Black woman to chair the Michigan Democratic Party, was a treasure for me personally," Barnes said in a statement. "It is not lost on me that it was decades of her hard work that helped make that possible."

eleblanc@detroitnews.com