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Richard Dumas Blake (1922-1989)


Richard D. Blake stands in front of Bethel AME Church
Richard D. Blake, 1979

Richard Dumas Blake was born in 1922 to parents David Addison and Grace (Rogers) Blake. When he was 10 years old, the family moved to Ann Arbor, where his father was a pastor at Bethel AME Church. As a boy, Richard was a member of Boy Scouts Troop 75, which was sponsored by the Dunbar Civic Center. He reached the rank of Star Scout by age 17. He attended Jones School and Ann Arbor High, where he participated in band, chorus, and orchestra.

As his older brothers David and George entered the service as soldiers in World War II, Richard attended Wilberforce University in Ohio for two years. He joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) there, and continued to pursue his interests in music and photography. He joined the Army’s Quartermaster Corps in May of 1943, and quickly achieved the rank of Corporal.

After the war’s end, Richard returned to Ann Arbor and attended Cleary College full-time to complete his bachelor’s degree. He was elected commander of the Kenneth Fox Post 7433, Veterans of Foreign Wars. Many fellow African American veterans joined the post as a result of his recruiting efforts. In 1949, he joined the U.S. Postal Service, which launched him into a lifetime career as a civil servant. He was named examiner-in-charge of the Board of United States Civil Service Examiners for Washtenaw County in 1957. He was the first African American in the state to hold that position. 

He married his high school sweetheart, Rosemarion Alexander, in 1949. They had three sons, Richard, Raymond, and Robert. Richard Sr. was very involved in his children’s education and the local community. He was co-president of the Jones School Parent Teacher Organization with his wife Rosemarion in 1958. He also served actively in the North Side Civic Association, the Ann Arbor Community Center (formerly the Dunbar Center), and Bethel AME Church.

Since growing up as a minister’s son, Richard Blake was dedicated to the church. In the 1960s and 70s, he was a Sunday School teacher, choir member, and general chairman of a campaign to raise $350,000 for a new Bethel AME Church building. One year he had 27 boys in his Sunday School class. They attended Lions games in Detroit and traveled to Clear Lake for camping and outdoor activities, just as Richard had done with his own sons. Later in his life he served as a Sunday School superintendent, trustee, steward, and lay reader. Bethel AME pastor John A. Woods called him “my strong right arm in the church.” 

In the early 1970s, Richard Dumas Blake joined the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA), where he was the Coordinator of School Services. A favorite among young children, he created a slide show starring Charlie Bus to teach K-4 students what he called “the art of riding the bus.” He was also president of AMFSCME Local 936, representing 90 Transportation Authority employees. Over the years at AATA, he was promoted to the positions of Safety Director and Systems Manager for Marketing. He loved community outreach, and organized innovative events such as the “Christmas Lights Ride” for seniors. Richard died unexpectedly at age 67 on September 21, 1989. The AATA honored Blake by naming its downtown transportation hub after him: the Blake Transit Center.

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