Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Couzens, James

James Couzens was an automotive executive and politician who held many stations including Detroit Mayor and U.S. Senator. Couzens was born on August 26, 1872 in Ontario, Canada. At the age of eighteen, he moved to Detroit to work as a railroad car checker for Michigan Central Railroad. He worked for the railroad until 1893 when he was hired as a clerk by coal businessman Alexander Malcolmson.

Malcolmson was also a partner in Henry Ford’s third attempt to launch a car company. In 1902 he “lent“ Couzens to the automotive enterprise, hoping his organizational and business skills would benefit the start-up attempt. Couzens not only decided to pursue the automotive business over the coal business, but also invested $2,500. Besides bringing a practical sensitivity to Ford’s business, Couzens was described as having “a genius for work itself.” In 1903 Couzens became the secretary of the new company and three years later he was vice president and general manager of the Ford Motor Company.

During his time at Ford, Couzens also worked as commissioner of street railways in Detroit. In 1915 he resigned from Ford, sparked by their opposing opinions on U.S. intervention in World War I. Four years later, Ford purchased Couzens’ shares in the company for $30 million. Also in 1915, Couzens took on the role of Detroit Police Department commissioner and in 1919 became mayor of Detroit. He held that office until 1922, when he was appointed U. S. senator after Truman H. Newberry resigned. He was elected to a full term in 1924 and re-elected in 1930. He died on October 22, 1936 while in office. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.

In addition to his political work, Couzens used his investment earnings for charitable work in Michigan. In 1929 he founded the Children’s Fund of Michigan with a $10 million dollar grant. The project, intentionally planned to end after 25 years, allowed Michigan children to receive health and dental care.



Congressional Memorial Address for James Couzens

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