Saginaw's First African American's




 An important part of the 39th  Annual Freedom Fund Banquet the Saginaw Branch of the NAACP unveiled a listing of significant historic African-American Firsts for the Saginaw community.  This effort helped to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the national NAACP and the 90th Anniversary of the Saginaw Branch and, most importantly, represents important information about the outstanding contributions and struggles of African-Americans in the development of the Saginaw community over the past 150 years.  This effort took several months of research to compile and represents a starting point for continuing efforts to recognize the accomplishments of African-Americans, women and other minorities in the area.

 The accomplishments listed below reflect contributions in a number of areas including, education, government and civic endeavors, business, industry and entertainment. We are inviting the public to assist our efforts in recognizing outstanding historic accomplishments of other African-Americans from this area by sharing this information with the NAACP.  Please call our offices at (989) 752-0614  if have information you can contribute.  In addition we are encouraging area educators to utilize this information the helping to educate students about the contributions African-Americans have made to this area. 




The following individuals are being recognized for their accomplishments that represent significant historical firsts for African-Americans in the Saginaw community.



Dr.  Charles Ellis                  Saginaw's First African-American Physician                    1862-1908

Adelaide Robinson               First graduate from Saginaw High School                        1898

Weston Montgomery Nash   First to receive a patent                                              1930

Margaret Haithco Groves   First teacher for the Saginaw Public Schools                    1946

John A. Wagner                   First faculty member at Delta College                               1961

Frances E. Carter                First Principal in the Saginaw Public Schools                   1965

Jacqueline Creed                 Homecoming Queen Saginaw High School                       1965

Marva McCray                     Homecoming Queen Buena Vista High School                 1965

Lucille Turnstall                   First female faculty at SVSU                                              1965-67

Wade McCree, Jr.                Male to serve on SVSU Board of Trustees                          1966-67

Ruben Daniels                      Saginaw Board of Education Trustee & Preside                  1967-1993

Paul Leek                              First to achieve tenure & Full Professor at Delta College    1970

Dr. Guy Lee, Jr.                    First male faculty, administrator, Dean at SVSU                 1970-1995

Dr. Kayte Fearn                    First Principal Saginaw High School                                    1971

Sylvester Stephens                 Male to serve on Delta College Board of Trustee                 1971-72

Charles Coles                        Varsity Head Coach Saginaw Public Schools                       1972-1982

Dr. James B. Smith                First Superintendent in Saginaw County                                                                                                                Male to serve as Superintendent of Buena Vista Schools     1978-1986

Leola Wilson                         Female to serve on Saginaw Intermediate School Board       1977-Present                                                              Female to serve on SVSU Board of Trustees                         2005-Present    

Pamela Stuckey                    Homecoming Queen Arthur Hill High School                        1985

Joseph Powe                        Male to serve on Saginaw Intermediate School Board            1985-Present

Vivian Keys-Brown              Female to serve as Superintendent Buena of Vista Schools     1996-2001

Marcia Marsh-Goffney        Female to serve on Delta College Board of Trustees                1997-2001

Dr. Gerald D. Dawkins        Superintendent of Saginaw Public Schools                               2001-2008

Nathaniel McClain               First Principal of Arthur Hill High School                                2008-Present




Bethel AME Church                         First church to organize in Saginaw                                1867

Reverend Peter S. Marks                  President Saginaw Branch NAACP                                1919

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.    Historically Black Sorority to organize in Saginaw        1963

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.     Historically Black Fraternity to organize in Saginaw      1971

Craig Chancellor                              CEO Saginaw County United Way                                 1988-1994



Government & Civic


Cal Nicholson First Police Officer & Detective City of Saginaw                                         1934

Warren S. Hurt Fireman & Fire Marshall City of Saginaw                                                  1947-1977

Harry W. Browne Male elected Saginaw County Board Commissioners                             1951

Henry G. Marsh Male elected to Saginaw City Council                                                       1961-1963

Henry G. Marsh Male to serve as Mayor of City of Saginaw                                               1967-1969

Marie Davis Female elected Saginaw County Board Commissioners                                  1968-197           1974-1990

Preston Wiley City Department Head “ Model Cities Department                                        1974-1975

Dr. Joy Hargrove Female elected to Saginaw City Council                                                   1979-1986

Lee Martin First County Department Head “ Mental Health                                                  1982

Michael Finney Interim City Manager City of Saginaw                                                         1986-1987

Al Holiday Male to serve as Chair of County Board Commissioners                                     1989-1990

Terry L. Clark Saginaw County District Court Judge                                                             1990-Present

James Golden Chief of Police City of Saginaw                                                                      1996-2000

Wilmer Ham-McZee Female to serve as Mayor of City of Saginaw                                       2001-2005

Carl Williams 96th MI State House of Representatives                                                           2001-2007

Darnell Jackson Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge                                                           2006-Present

Brigette Braddock Female serve Chair of County Board of Commissioners                          2009




William Atwood Business owner “ real estate & sawmill                                                      1861

French Morgan Attorney to practice law in Saginaw                                                            1878

Thornton H. Westbrook Operated funeral home (later became Elsie Black's)                       1929

Rosena Moton Ford First registered nurse                                                                              1946

Charles Dunn First foreman & supervisor U.S. Post Office                                                   1948-1986

Jim Ellis College All-American & professional athlete                                                          1951

Lavinia M. Saunders Medical secretary at Veterans Administration Hospital                      1953-1955                                  EEO Representative for State of Michigan & Ohio                                                               1955

Shirley Barry-Ward First cashier hired by A & P Grocery                                                     1962

Lemuel Tucker Emmy Award winning television network reporter                                        1965

Horace Davis Became Michigan's first black general manager for an                                                                                                               all-white member country club (Bay City Country Club)                                                        1969-1992

Thelma Poston Female to operate real estate firm in Saginaw                                                 1973

Ruben Daniels Serve on local bank board of directors “ Michigan National                           1974-1993

Dorothy N. Allen Director of Saginaw Co. Child Receiving Home                                         1979-1996

Laval Perry Owner of new car dealership “ All American Ford                                              1988

Sam Jones GM Plant Manager                                                                                                  1981-1994

             GM Site Manager                                                                                                         1994-1995

             GM Director of Manufacturing Asia Region                                                               1996-1999

Odail Thorns Delphi Director of Mfg & Gen. Manager, Global Manufacturing                      1993-1999

About Dr. Charles W. Ellis ~ 1862-1908
Charles W. Ellis worked with Dr. Benjamin Ross as a medical student in the 1880s.  Dr. Ross was one of the first doctors when St. Mary's Hospital opened in 1874.  When Dr. Ross died, Dr. Ellis inherited Ross' both his practice and home at 522 South Jefferson. 
Dr. Ellis was the physician for the former St. Vincent's Orphan's Home, health officer of the Saginaw Traction (Transit) Company - an electrical train, and was on the medical staff of St. Mary's Hospital.  From 1892-1896, Dr. Ellis was the Health Officer for the east side for the city.
In 1908, Dr. Ellis died early from pneumonia when he was forty-five years old.  His patients included noted Saginaw families: Atwood, Heavenrich, Seitner, Webber and Wickes. The Saginaw County Medical Society had a special Sunday memorial meeting at the Bancroft Hotel in his honor when he died. His funeral was his home on S. Jefferson - one block from the home of Wm. Quincy Atwood who a friend and neighbor.  Six members of the Saginaw County Medical Socity served as pallbearers: Drs. H. M. Leach, C. H. Sample, T.M. Williamson, J. H. Crowell, W.L. Slach and W.J. O'Reilly, the president of the Society. 
I found a couple inspiring paragraphs about Dr. Charles W. Ellis in Enterprising Images: The Goodridge Brothers, African American Photographers 1847-1922, by John Jezierski, printed by Wayne State University, 2000, pp. 222-223. The book is available at Saginaw Public Libraries. Mr. Jezierski was a former history professor from SVSU who died last year.
While book is about the Goodridge brothers, I found information about African Americans of East Saginaw & Saginaw City. The cities merged in 1890.
Charles W. Ellis Sr., Dr. Ellis' father (same name), was an early Black leader in Saginaw - active politically with the Goodridge Brothers, Wm. Q. Atwood, and others.  In 1876, Charles Ellis Sr. began serving as the superintendent of the Zion Baptist Church Sunday School.  Additionally, he became a popular caterer of the city.