Garlin Gilchrist II stands tall as Michigan’s first black Lt. Governor

Every inch of Garlin Gilchrist’s 6-foot-8 frame stood tall as he was sworn in as the first black Lieutenant Governor of Michigan late Tuesday morning in Lansing on the steps of the State Capitol.

Gilchrist is the running mate of Gretchen Whitmer, who was sworn in as the 49th governor of the state of Michigan, making history as the state’s second-ever female governor (Jennifer Granholm-2003).

Gilchrist, 36, opened by talking about his grandmother Doris, who was a social studies teacher in his hometown of Detroit. He said she was the first person to teach him about democracy when she walked him through the halls of the Michigan Capitol building years before he decided to run for office.

“I think about her as we stand upon these steps this morning,” Gilchrist said. “They are more than the pathway to the chambers of lawmaking and the halls of collaboration. They are the standing points that we as Michiganders gather upon every few years to define the goals and promises our state will pursue.”

Gilchrist said he stood on the Capitol steps due in part to “indigenous people”, “immigrants”, and “travelers” who planted seeds for his success.

“(We are) lifted by the dreams of grandparents like mine, who migrated here from Alabama, and Arkansas, and all across the world in search of opportunity,” Gilchrist added. “Lifted here, in Michigan, where they came and found our pleasant peninsula that marks God’s handprint. Lifted by the sweat of parents like mine, who as the first of their generation to go to college sacrificed to make real the promise of a middle-class life that could position their only child for success.”

Gilchrist also became the first black person to hold an executive office in Michigan since Richard Austin was Secretary of State in 1995 under John Engler.

He was born in Detroit, September 25, 1982 and moved to Farmington in 1989 where he graduated from high school in 2000. Gilchrist has a wife, Ellen, and 4-year-old twins Garlin Gilchrist III and Emily Grace.

Gilchrist’s background is in progressive politics and computer programming. He used to work for Microsoft, was a political organizer for, and managed social media for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.

In 2017, he ran for Detroit city clerk in and was endorsed by a range of left-leaning groups, including Our Revolution, which grew out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run. He lost his run for city clerk by 1,482 votes out of nearly 100,000 ballots, but out-raised his incumbent opponent Janice Winfrey by more than 10-1. Before that, he ran Detroit’s Innovation & Emerging Technology department under Mayor Mike Duggan.

Those attending the ceremony included Whitmer’s predecessor, Republican Rick Snyder, and Democratic former Govs. Granholm and Jim Blanchard.

Others sworn in included Dana Nessel as attorney general and Jocelyn Benson as secretary of state. The last time Democrats jointly assumed control of the top four offices was 32 years ago.


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