Loren Eugene Monroe Sr., the first African American State Treasurer of Michigan, under former Gov. William Milliken, passed away May 29 at the age of 87, according to his family. Monroe was appointed by Gov. Milliken in 1978, after former state treasurer Allison Green retired after 12 years. At the time, Monroe was only the second African American to hold such a position in the country.
Gov. Milliken nominated Monroe August 18, 1978 for a term to begin September 5, 1978. He was formally confirmed October 31, 1979 and served as state treasurer until 1982. During his tenure, Monroe managed over 1,700 employees in his department, overseeing Michigan’s $5.8 billion budget. He was the highest-ranking African American ever appointed by Gov. Milliken, who had been criticized for not including more diversity in his cabinet.
“I remember him specifically telling me that he had a meeting with Gov. Milliken at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn for the job,” said his granddaughter, Brandyce Monroe. “He said, out of 18 people, Gov. Milliken personally selected him. I felt that was a big deal that Gov. Milliken came down to Detroit just to meet with him.”
Monroe’s principal duties as state treasurer included depositing and investing state funds and serving on boards and commissions dealing with state money. In 1980, Monroe signed a deal with then Chrysler Corporation CEO Lee A. Iacocca to loan the troubled automaker $150 million. To date, there has only been one African American Treasurer of Michigan since Monroe left office, and that is the current treasurer, Rachael Eubanks.
“During that time, when black people were fighting for basic rights, for him to be hand-picked by the governor to handle the state’s money, that’s a big deal for a black man,” Monroe added. “I think that speaks volumes that he made history here in Michigan and it means a lot to our family.”
Monroe was born April 5, 1932 in Hillsborough County, Florida to parents Eugene and Leona Monroe. Shortly after he was born, the family moved to Thomasville, Georgia, where he received his education through the public school system, graduating from Frederick Douglass High School. In 1953, Monroe was drafted into the United States Army, serving in the Korean War as a Morse Code Interceptor, a hobby he mastered at age 12. After being honorably discharged in 1955, Monroe migrated north to Detroit with his mother in search of better opportunities, like millions of other African Americans. His first job in the city was as a bicyclist for Western Union, delivering telegrams downtown.
He attended Wayne State University (then Wayne University), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1958, his Juris Doctorate in 1970, and his Master of Laws degree in 1980. Monroe was admitted to the Michigan State bar in 1970 and received his Certified Public Accounting (CPA) certification in 1974.
Monroe married Annie Duncan (d.2008) and to their union were born five children; Loren Jr., Dawn, Claire, John, and Michael. Loren Jr., his eldest, preceded him in death in 1971. Monroe leaves to cherish 10 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and his wife, Lei’Wan Monroe.
Monroe held a number of titles throughout his storied life. He was a field auditor for the Michigan Department of Treasury from 1959-1970 and a tax specialist at Coopers & Lybrand International CPA firm from 1970-1976. He joined in the formation of the law firm of Mosley and Monroe in 1976 and after leaving state office, joined Phil Pierce to form Pierce, Monroe & Associates, LLC. in 1985. In 2006, Monroe was appointed Auditor General for the city of Detroit by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. He retired in 2013 due to health complications. Prior to that, he unsuccessfully ran for Detroit City Council in 2004.
In 2013, Monroe was featured in the third edition of the book, “Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events” as the first African American State Treasurer of Michigan. He was also included in a list of the “100 Most Influential Black Americans,” alongside the likes of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Damon J. Keith, Judge Wade H. McCree Jr., Louis Martin, and Coretta Scott King, among others. He was also an avid chess champion, piano player, and runner.
Visitation is scheduled June 3 from 9-9 p.m., at the James H. Cole Home for Funerals’ Boulevard Chapel (2624 West Grand Boulevard). A funeral service will take place Tuesday, June 4 at Monroe’s home church, Chapel Hill Baptist Church (5000 Joy Road) at 11:30 a.m.