Cable mogul Don Barden honored with street in Detroit

Late Detroit business mogul, Don Barden, who built one of the nation’s largest Black-owned businesses through casinos and cable television, was honored with a street in Detroit renamed after him.

A ceremony was held at the Comcast Service Center (12775 Lyndon Street), which was formerly the headquarters of Barden Cablevision, followed by the unveiling of the street sign on the corner of Lyndon and Schaefer. Barden founded Barden Communications Inc. in 1981, building the cable television system to serve Detroit, Inskter, and several other suburbs. He then sold it to Comcast in 1994 for over $100 million.

Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, and the mayors of Inskter and Romulus were some of the elected officials in attendance. The secondary street naming was approved by the Detroit City Council October 8.

“This is a historic day for our city. Detroiters will always remember Don’s contributions with a street named in his honor,” said Montez Miller, who led the street name changing effort. “Don was my boss at Barden Cablevision, but he became a friend and mentor. I was among many he touched through his work and philanthropy.”

The Barden family prepares to unveil the street sign named after Don H. Barden. PHOTO: Brian Sevald

Donald Hamilton Barden was born December 20, 1943 in Inkster, Michigan. He attended Inskter High School, where he starred on the football team for the Vikings. The ninth of 13 children, Barden grew up sharing a bed with his siblings and left for college at HBCU Central State University in Ohio in hopes of becoming a lawyer rather than an autoworker like his parents. But he dropped out of college in 1965 and used $500 in savings to open a record store, Donnie’s Records, in Lorain, Ohio. That was the start of an empire.

From there, he launched several businesses, including a real estate development firm, a nightclub, and a weekly newspaper, The Lorain County Times, in Lorain. He was also the city’s first elected black city council member from 1972-1975.

By 1981, Barden bought an interest in a cable television station in Lorain and formed Barden Communications Inc. He expanded his cable system to include communities in his hometown of Inkster and the Detroit area.

Montez Miller was a former employee of Don Barden and led the effort to get a Detroit street named in his honor. PHOTO: Brian Sevald

Using the capital gained from the Comcast deal, Barden ventured into the casino gaming industry when he acquired and operated the Majestic Star Casino, a riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana. He also owned casinos in Mississippi and Colorado.

After an unsuccessful bid to open a casino in Detroit with popstar Michael Jackson in 1998, which would have included an amusement park along the Detroit Riverfront, Barden set his eyes on Las Vegas.

He acquired three Fitzgeralds casinos for $149 million in 2001, making him the first Black businessman to own casino operations in Las Vegas. Barden used $14 million of his own money and raised $150 million from 40 institutional investors to seal the deal and upgrade operations.

“He is a huge part of why we have three casinos today and I always thought he deserved to have one in the city of Detroit,” said Mayor Duggan. “Don Barden was a giant in our city’s history.”

Don H. Barden Street at the corner of Lyndon and Schaefer on Detroit’s west side. PHOTO: Brian Sevald

Barden rose from humble beginnings to become a self-made multimillionaire African American entrepreneur, and trailblazer in America’s gaming industry. In 2010, Black Enterprise Magazine ranked Barden companies as the 10th highest grossing Black-owned company in the United States, with $405 million in revenue.

Still, Barden never forgot his roots and lived in Detroit in a 10,000-square-foot mansion off the Detroit Golf Club. He was widely known for his charitable work, organizing a series of regional economic peace conferences to address Detroit’s crime problem, national reputation, and need for economic development. Barden passed away on May 19, 2011 from lung cancer in Detroit at the age of 67. He is survived by a son, Don Jr., and a daughter, Alana M. Barden.

“I am honored to have my brother commemorated with this street sign,” said his brother John Barden. “Don was dedicated to building a better Detroit. He created jobs and other opportunities for many people. This is a fitting tribute.”

COVER PHOTO: Brian Sevald

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