A special ceremony was held on Monday morning in front of the Spirit of Detroit as Governor Gretchen Whitmer, joined by Mayor Mike Duggan, and other officials, signed House Bill 4060, which designates the portion of the Lodge Freeway between Livernois and I-94 in Detroit as the “Aretha Franklin Memorial Highway.”
HB 4060 was introduced by Representative Leslie Love (D-Detroit) in January and passed in the Michigan Legislature on June 20, 2019. Some Republicans opposed the bill, arguing highway designations should be reserved for military veterans and first responders. It still passed with a 32-5 vote.
“This is a special day in Michigan’s history as we designate this memorial highway to the first female African-American artist-activist ever to receive this distinctive honor in the state’s history,” said Rep. Love. “It’s very important to me that the state of Michigan is honoring Ms. Franklin. When you get a memorial highway, that memorial highway is forever. I am honored and delighted to have sponsored this bill.”
Governor Whitmer added that Franklin was an American icon whose musical contributions built Michigan into the state it is today. Whitmer ended the ceremony by signing the bill on the hood of the 1958 pink Cadillac parked in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue, a real life reference to Franklin’s hit song “Freeway of Love.”
“She started her career right here in Detroit, but her influence has reached every corner of the world. I’m honored to be able to dedicate a portion of the M-10 freeway to remember Aretha, to celebrate her life, and to honor everything she did for this city and our state,” said Whitmer. “I am proud to sign this bill here today in the city that she loved and the city she called home, because there is no place like Detroit and there was no one like Aretha Franklin.”
Franklin passed away in her hometown of Detroit August 16, 2018 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She moved to Detroit in 1946, when her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, became pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the city’s Black Bottom neighborhood. Franklin got her start singing in her father’s church, propelling her to become a music superstar over the next half century. And although she was an international icon, Franklin never forgot her beloved Motor City.
“Aretha Franklin touched this country in ways that went far beyond music,” Duggan said. “Now with the renaming of the Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway, everyone who travels through Detroit on it will remember that Detroit is the home of the Queen of Soul.”