Michigan Secretary of State's office celebrates 100th birthday of Richard H. Austin

MAY 6, 2013Austin 100 Year Celebration

Former Secretary of State remembered for leadership, innovations and traffic safety

LANSING, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was joined by many longtime department staff members at the Austin Building in downtown Lansing today as they remembered Michigan's longest-serving Secretary of State, Richard H. Austin.

Mr. Austin, the first African American to hold a statewide elected position in Michigan, served as secretary of state from 1971 to 1995.

"According to those he worked with, Richard Austin's style was thoughtful and calming," said Johnson. "His strategy was to listen, ask questions, moderate and move forward. But perhaps his best leadership quality was patience. He never gave up on issues and implemented policies that saved lives."

Austin's nickname was "Mr. Traffic Safety."

Joining Johnson in remembering Mr. Austin, who died in 2001, was former Michigan attorney general Frank Kelley, former Secretary of State communications director Liz Boyd, former traffic safety director Bill Kennedy and the current director of elections, Chris Thomas. Former deputy secretary of state Dennis Neuner also shared his memories of Austin.

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For media questions, please call Gisgie Dávila Gendreau at 517-373-2520.