MONROE - Dorothy L. Edwards, 76, a community activist since the 1960s who represented her Orchard East neighborhood on City Council for 14 years, died Tuesday in Fountain View of Monroe from complications of cancer. She went to the nursing home after a stroke in late July, her son, Willie, said.
Mrs. Edwards became the first African American on the Monroe council after she was elected to represent Precinct 3 in 1993. She did not want to be called a pioneer.
"I don't want to be measured by being the first," she told The Blade in 2000. "I want to be measured by the work that I do. Being the first doesn't mean anything if you can't get anything done."
She was re-elected every two years through 2005. She did not run in 2007.
Her motive for seeking office was the same as for becoming a sometimes vocal activist in the '60s. "She felt like her community and her side of town was being lost in the shuffle," her son said. "If her community was going to be a part of the city, she wanted to always be part of the city with a positive image. She felt if there was something she could do to make a difference, she went for it."
She targeted absentee landlords - slumlords - before and during her council tenure.
"She was aggressive and wanted to maintain a higher quality of living in her precinct," Mayor Mark Worrell said. "She could be a feisty gal."
Former Mayor C.D. "Al" Cappuccilli added: "She was very persistent and did a good job about cleaning those things up.
"Dorothy is going to be missed. Very much so," Mr. Cappuccilli said.
She attended meetings of the Michigan Municipal League and its affiliate, Michigan Women in Municipal Government, and of the National League of Cities.
Mrs. Edwards' life changed and her community work began one day in the '60s. Her son ran into the house in a panic. Police, deputies, and National Guardsmen with dogs were in her neighborhood to contain a disturbance.
She wanted to know what happened so suddenly. Still in her bathrobe, she walked up to the sheriff and police chief standing on the corner.
"I decided then and there that I didn't ever want to see dogs and Guardsmen walking my streets again," Mrs. Edwards told The Blade in 2000.
She became involved in the Arthur Lesow Community Center. She became president of the Monroe branch of the NAACP. She played a key role in convincing the city to sell Habitat for Humanity plots of land at $1 each and getting houses built.
"Dorothy was always involved in something, one organization or another," said Mr. Cappuccilli, who knew her about 40 years.
Mrs. Edwards was an infant when her family moved to Monroe from Jackson, Miss. She attended Monroe High and did housework for families in the city before she became a home economist aide with the Michigan State University Extension office in Monroe.
She went to work for Detroit Edison in the 1970s as a coal handler at the Monroe power plant. She became a guard and was a shift leader in the security department at the power plant. She retired in the mid-1980s.
She was a member of Second Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe.
She was formerly married to the late Willie Edwards.
Surviving are son, Willie Edwards; sisters, Dori Wilson and Mamie Wilson; brother, William Wilson, Jr.; two granddaughters, and five great-grandchildren.
Arrangements are pending at the Bacarella Funeral Home, Monroe. The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.
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