Built by design and made in Detroit

Being honored with the Women of Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award is an overwhelming honor. I just hope that I am deserving of such a
prestigious and meaningful award. There are so many women who deserve this distinction, but I am happy to accept this award with open arms.
Teola Hunter
Teola Hunter, moved in and out of political circles with incredible ease and navigated the hallowed halls of the Michigan State House of Representatives as though she was — as they say, to the manor born — right up to her retirement from the top job in the House in 1992.
“The first time I ran for office was probably in 1976 when I ran for City Council. I didn’t know anything about politics … I didn’t know that I had to
get out and promote myself and sell my qualifications,” Hunter recalls laughing. “I was at a neighborhood group meeting to try and convince them
that I was a good candidate, but Clyde Cleveland, who was an elegant speaker, spoke before me and I just hoped that the ground would open up and swallow me or that I would get drastically ill, so I wouldn’t have to speak.”
The then political novice admits that she stammered and stumbled over the words of the speech and although she was devastated, she was not defeated and ultimately moved on to make history in Lansing and across the nation.
Hunter who earned the dual distinction in 1987of being the first female and the first African American Speaker Pro Tempore in the Michigan legislature says she wasn’t always so at home with being in the public eye. Hunter graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1949 at the age of 15. And against her counselor’s advice who suggested as “a colored” she’d be better off finding work at Michigan Bell, the indignant and inspired Hunter ignored the short-sighted counselor and adhered to her mother’s mandate to get an education. The aspiring academician enrolled in Wayne State University at the age of 15.
“My mother’s parents and grandparents were slaves … and because of the way they were treated, I think they had more of a commitment to seeing to it that their children had more and lived better than they had,” explained Bell about living a life grounded in education and cultural pursuits. “I don’t see that happening today … where children are excelling and accomplishing more than their parents,” laments the life-long educator.
Hunter received her bachelor’s degree in education in 1958 from University of Detroit Mercy and her master’s degree in elementary school guidance and counseling in 1971 from Wayne State University. Hunter taught for the Detroit Public School System from 1958-1974 and founded Buttons and Bows Nurseries and Preparatory School in 1971.
Child care centers were Hunter’s foray into the world of politics, when as a childcare expert she worked with the Michigan legislature to write Public Act 116 to establish standard qualifications for childcare centers.
“Interacting with the legislature to write Public Act 116, I said to myself, ‘Self, you can do this, and you can do it better.’” From 1981 until her resignation in January 1992, Hunter served in the Michigan House of Representatives. She also served as deputy director for the Wayne County Health and Community Services Department.
When asked to compare the political landscape during her tenure to today’s climate Hunter replied:
“Back then you had people who were very dedicated, and who wanted to be elected officials to serve the public. When I went to Lansing you had, Raymond and Morris Hood, Sen. David Holmes, Basil Brown, Joe Young Sr., Joe Young Jr., Virgil Smith, Barbara Rose Collins, and Carolyn Cheeks. Our primary concern was to do the best that we could for the City of Detroit.”
Teola Hunter celebrates her 85th birthday on Friday, March 23, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the St. Regis Hotel, 3071 W. Grand Blvd. Party proceeds will benefit the Franklin Wright Settlement Homes Inc. Education Program.


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