By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Arab-American pioneer Michael Berry died Oct. 24 at the age of 95 after having a successful political career in the Metro Detroit area.
He was the first Muslim lawyer of Arab decent to practice law in Michigan and also served as a chairman on the Wayne County Road Commission for 16 years.
Funeral services were held on Oct. 29 at the Islamic Center of America, 19500 Ford Road.
Memorial donations can be made to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for those interested.
“Sir Michael Berry was a visionary and was also very courageous,”ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber said. “He had an unshakable loyalty to the community and to those who are underserved. He understood the importance of fully integrating Arab Americans into American society and showing Americans the value of their involvement.”
Born in Highland Park on May 8, 1920, Berry’s parents moved him and his eight siblings back to their homeland of Lebanon in 1930.
The country’s depression caused the family to return to the United States and settle in Dearborn.
Berry graduated from Fordson High School in 1938 and then Fordson Junior College and Wayne College before earning his law degree from Detroit College of Law in 1950.
In 1949, Berry participated in a recall campaign against then Dearborn Mayor Orville Hubbard, starting his political career.
Shortly after, Berry formed the Berry, Hopson & Francis law firm in Dearborn where Berry focused on municipal law.
In 1967, Berry began serving on the Wayne Country Road Commission after winning the election where he was active in the Detroit Metro Airport expansion.
The international terminal at the Detroit Metro Airport was named after Berry in 1974, but was decommissioned in 2008 for commercial film and television production.
Earlier this year, the Wayne Country Airport Authority approved a resolution to name its new headquarters after Berry.
The building, still under construction is being built adjacent to the North Terminal at the airport and will be completed in 2017.
“In the later years of his life, when he became a strong supporter of ACCESS, he remained very much involved and vocal about his commitment,” Jaber said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Opened in 2005, the Michael Berry Career Center, 22586 Ann Arbor Trail was named after Berry and provides career and technical training programs to Dearborn Public Schools students.
Berry is survived by his wife, Cindy; two sons, Timothy Berry and Brendan Berry; and four daughters, Cindi LaCroix, Laura Berry Harris, Carol Ward, Gail Berry. He also is survived by his siblings, Patricia Kelley, Lindy Berry and Frank Berry, and six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)