DETROIT – A memorial service will be held on Thursday to celebrate the life and legacy of former State Representative Alma G. Stallworth, honoring her decades of public service, political activism, and devotion to family and community.
Stallworth served a total of 22 years as the representative for Northwest Detroit in the Michigan Legislature, was instrumental in the election of numerous local and national elected officials, and remained active in both policy advocacy and community program development until her death at age 87. She passed away peacefully at her Southfield home on Tuesday, August 25.
A live stream of the service will be available in this article and here at 12 p.m. on Thursday. Check back to watch it.
Stallworth was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1932, and moved with her family to Detroit as a young child. She attended Palmer and Garfield Elementary Schools, Northeastern High School and Wayne State University. Later in life, she earned a master’s degree in health promotion and education, and her doctorate in business administration from Chelsea University in Great Britain.
From a young age, she was active in a variety of leadership roles in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and continued throughout her life to devote herself to service through the church, particularly in community efforts to address early childhood care, education and programs for youth development.
In 1951, she married Thomas Fontaine Stallworth, Jr., and the couple raised two sons, Thomas Fontaine, III, and Keith Bernard. Alma and Thomas were married for 68 years, until his passing in September 2019.
After years of community-based organizing and activism, Stallworth was first elected as the representative for Northwest Detroit in the Michigan Legislature in 1970, and she served in numerous leadership roles, including the chair of the Children & Youth Services Committee, vice-chair of the Conservation & Recreation Committee, and a member of standing committees for Public Health, and Mental Health.
Among the accomplishments in her first term she considered most significant were the resources she was able to garner in the struggle to reduce infant mortality and low-weight babies in the African American community. Likewise, she was proud of her authorship and enactment of the Public Act 116, The Michigan Child Care Licensing Act, that created occupancy, health and safety standards, staff qualification, training, facility guidelines and regulatory oversight requirements for the growing number of child care centers and agencies, resulting from increasing numbers of women entering the workforce.
For her work to safeguard the health of senior citizens, which included amending the State’s administrative rules to require “unannounced State inspections” of nursing homes and senior care facilities, she was recognized with the National Advocate Leadership Award from the National Council of Senior Citizens in Washington, D.C.
Later in Stallworth’s legislative career, she chaired the House Committee on Public Utilities, where she was instrumental in crafting and implementing Michigan’s Gas Utility Deregulation, Michigan’s Energy Assurance Program, Michigan’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Act, Michigan’s Electric Utility Restructuring, and the Michigan Telecommunications Act.
Also during her legislative tenure, Stallworth was elected to chair the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, and went on to establish the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan, a public policy and research nonprofit that recruits African American college students as interns in legislative offices, providing mentorship and paving a path to full-time staff opportunities within State government. She later expanded the program to provide intern opportunities not only in the legislature, but also in the Governor’s Office, House and Senate fiscal agencies, State departments and in the offices of private sector partners that supported efforts to increase the diversity of African American public policy professionals.
The Black Caucus Foundation’s ‘Drug-Free Youth in Detroit’ program was born out of a research paper produced through the Black Caucus Foundation internship, and identified an approach to provide support for positive adolescent development through the provision of school-based behavioral health programs, and focused building resistance skills and healthy life-style choices as a path to success and the avoidance of drug use. Through Stallworth’s guidance, the program was piloted initially in five schools in Northwest Detroit through the Governor’s Discretionary Fund, and has operated each year since, serving as many as 5,000 students in 21 schools in a single year.
Over the course of her career, Stallworth used her influence to raise and contribute more than 1 million dollars in support of students at historically Black colleges via a locally televised Annual Super Anchor Party for the United Negro College Fund.
As one of the first elected officials to publicly endorse then Senator Coleman Young for mayor, their long-term friendship resulted in her appointment as deputy director of the Detroit Historical Museum. During her tenure at the museum, Stallworth worked to make the Cultural District more relevant and accessible to the increasingly African American Detroit community. She created programs that centered on providing Detroit Public School students with field trips and programs at the museums, and she encouraged use of museum facilities by social, civic and community organizations for meetings and events.
Stallworth founded the Detroit Affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute, and was a frequent speaker for Women in Government travelling throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, discussing the role of women in policy advocacy. She has written and published three books: her memoirs, “My Life, My Loves, My Legacy,” “Broken Hearts: Like Mother, Like Daughter, A Spiritual Call for Equality in Health Care” and “Legacy of A Lawmaker.”
Upon retirement, to manage a long-term illness, Stallworth relocated to Wesley Chapel, Florida. Returning home to personally provide checks from the Stallworth Scholarship Fund to graduating Drug-Free Scholars was her last act of public service.
Stallworth was succeeded by her son Keith (KB) in the legislature, who was also elected chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, was a founding board member of the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan, and founded the first African American-owned overhead and underground electric power-line clearance, restoration and construction company in Michigan.
She was also succeeded by her son Thomas (Tommy), who was elected chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and Detroit Caucus, has served as a board member of the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan, and was a successful human resource and strategic asset growth and collections professional in the gas and electric industries before becoming a governmental affairs consultant. Tommy now serves as a senior advisor to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Alms G. Stallworth is survived by her sons and their wives: Thomas III & Nicole Wells Stallworth, and KB & Nicole T. Stallworth; her grandchildren: Thomas IV & Aja, Joseph, KB Wellington, Madison, Lance and Harrison Stallworth; Tonie Wells; and Misha & Terrence West; her great-grandchildren: Thomas Christian V and London Stallworth; her sisters: Ila Blake and Debra Singley; her nieces and nephews: Wil & Sandra, Paul, and Eleece Blake; Adaku Zerhouni; Maia, Frazier & Cindy Cunningham; her uncle and aunts: Joe & Alma Tate and Sarah Sizemore; and her godson, Clifford Mathews, as well as a host of beloved cousins, grand-nieces & nephews and godchildren.