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Mercy Medallion



Richard H. Austin has been Secretary of the state of Michigan since 1971 and as such holds the distinction of being the longest serving black elected to a statewide office in the nation.  He heads the office which oversees Michigan elections, vehicle registration, traffic safety and state archives and is said to have more direct contact with Michigan’s citizens than any other office in government.  His administration has been highly acclaimed for operational innovation and efficiency, encouragement of greater citizen involvement in the political process and sincere devotion to highway safety and the welfare of Michigan’s citizens.  His many accomplishments and innovations have included driver improvement programs focusing on the young driver, early identification and referral treatment for alcohol and drug abusers and actions to expedite voter and vehicle registration, purchase of license plates and driver license renewal.

As chairman of the Michigan State Safety Commission, the Secretary has been a key spokesman for the traffic safety community in its efforts to develop a comprehensive traffic safety approach in Michigan.  He has supported stiffer penalties for drinking drivers, was a key advocate of Michigan’s child restraint legislation and has led the fight to retain Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law.  He has also successfully led the effort to enact a mandatory seat belt law.  To the office of Secretary of State, Richard H. Austin brought an extensive background in business, government and volunteer community service.  Prior to this he had enjoyed a thirty-year career as a practicing certified public accountant.

Raised in Detroit from age 11, he worked his way through school to help his mother support his family.  He earned a scholarship to Wayne State University bus was unable to accept it due to family circumstances.  While holding down a series of jobs during the day, he began his accounting studies at night at the Detroit Institute of Technology where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration.  In 1941 he became Michigan’s first black certified public accountant and spent several years as senior partner of Austin, Washington & Davenport.

In 1961, he began his public service career as an elected delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention and in 1966 was elected Wayne County Auditor.  Over the years he has served on numerous state and local government commissions and study groups and has helped organize a number of businesses, philanthropic foundations and civic organizations.  He continues to serve as an officer and a director in several organizations.

Currently, Secretary Austin is a member of the Michigan Association of CPAs, American Institute of CPAs, Economic Club of Detroit, Booker T. Washington Business Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.  He is also a life member of the NAACP, chairman of the Randolph W. Wallace Kidney Research Foundation, Inc. and vice president of the Metro-Detroit United Foundation.  He has served on the boards of Detroit Metropolitan Industrial Development Corporation, Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, Mercy College of Detroit, Harper-Grace Hospitals, Detroit Council for Political Education, and numerous other organizations.

He has received various awards and honors including the Outstanding Alumnus of the Detroit Institute of Technology, Liberty Bell Award, Michigan Association of CPAs Distinguished Achievement Award, Builder of Detroit Award, and Distinguished Citizen Award.  He was named a Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News in 1985.  His honors also include honorary doctorates from Detroit College of Business, Michigan State University and Detroit Institute of Technology.

Award was presented at the Works of Mercy Dinner September 11, 1986 by Maureen A. Fay, O.P., President, Mercy College of Detroit and Thomas V. Angott, Chairman of the MCD Board of Trustees and President of Pure Milk Co.

Mercy College of Detroit

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