Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Kilpatrick, Kwame

Detroit’s 60th mayor, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick, was born on June 8, 1970 in Detroit, Michigan. His mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, was a U. S. Representative until 2010, and his father Bernard, worked in Wayne County government until opening a private consulting firm. Kilpatrick graduated from Cass Technical High School and went to Florida A&M University where he was captain of the football team, graduating with honors with a degree in political science and a teaching certification. He earned his law degree from the Michigan State University College of Law in 1998.

Returning to Detroit, Kilpatrick taught middle school at Marcus Garvey Academy before he was elected state representative in 1996. When he was elected to head the House Democratic Caucus he became the youngest person, and first African American, to lead a party in the Michigan legislature. 

In 2001, Kwame Kilpatrick was elected mayor of the City of Detroit, the youngest person ever to hold that post. Christened the “Hip-Hop Mayor” there were high expectations for what this politically skilled, bright, ambitious young man might bring to the city, but his first term was dogged by scandal and charges of poor administration. However, following a bruising campaign he was re-elected in 2005 after narrowly defeating Detroiter Freeman Hendrix.

In February 2006, Kilpatrick joined other city leaders in hosting Super Bowl XL, which was deemed an unqualified success. Unfortunately his misuse and abuse of office led to a series of criminal charges, starting in January 2008, when he was indicted on eight felony counts of alleged perjury and obstruction of justice by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. In August 2008, with the other court case still pending, Kilpatrick was charged by the Michigan Attorney General with two additional felony counts in a separate case. After pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and no contest to one count of assault, Kilpatrick resigned as mayor of Detroit, effective September 18, 2008. 

While in jail for probation violation of his 2008 convictions, Kilpatrick was indicted on numerous federal charges in 2010, including mail fraud and tax evasion. In 2013, convicted of two dozen charges of racketeering and conspiracy, Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison. He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for a new trial, and asked the president of the United States for clemency or pardon. Kilpatrick was granted clemency on the final day of the Trump administration, ending his prison term 20 years early. 

Kwame Kilpatrick and his wife, Carlita were divorced in 2018. They have three sons, twins Jelani and Jalil, and their younger brother, Jonas.



Still from VHS tape featuring Kwame Kilpatrick’s farewell to Athenia Harris, 2003 – 2015.010.003

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