Post Offices to be named after Poet Laureate Robert Hayden and WWII Veteran Alexander Jefferson
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Debbie Stabenow (MI), introduced two bills to name U.S. Postal Service facilities after distinguished Michiganders. One bill would designate the post office located at 2075 West Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor, Michigan as the “Robert Hayden Post Office.” Robert Hayden was the first African American national Poet Laureate, the first Black faculty member at the University of Michigan’s English department, and an Ann Arbor resident. The other bill would designate the post office located at 155 South Main Street in Mount Clemens, Michigan, as the “Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Jefferson Post Office.” Jefferson was a member of the famous “Tuskegee Airmen” of the U.S. Army Air Forces with the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II, a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, and an educator with Detroit Public Schools.
“Robert Hayden and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Jefferson are essential parts of Michigan and our nation’s history. Robert Hayden helped showcase the Black American experience through his literary work, which continues to inspire many Americans. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Jefferson was an American hero who served as one of the nation’s first African American military pilots, opening the door for individuals to serve no matter the color of their skin, and who continued his public service as a letter carrier and educator after his military service,” said Senator Peters. “Naming these post offices after two distinguished Michiganders will help honor their long-lasting legacies and contributions to our Michigan communities.”
“As our nation’s first African American Poet Laureate, Robert Hayden made an incredible impact on our country, providing extraordinary contributions to American history, culture, and education. Serving as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II and later as a Detroit-area educator, Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson was a role model and mentor who inspired others to serve and pursue their dreams. Naming these post offices after these two extraordinary Michiganders is a fitting tribute to their incredible lives,” said Senator Stabenow.
Robert Hayden was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1913. Hayden attended Detroit City College (now Wayne State University) and went on to earn a Master of Arts degree at the University of Michigan. Hayden married Erma Inez Morris in 1940 and they moved to Ann Arbor in 1941. Hayden published nine collections of poetry during his lifetime, as well as essays and other works of literature, with much of his work touching on the Black American experience as part of the greater human experience. Hayden also taught at Fisk University in Tennessee. He returned to teach at the University of Michigan in 1969, becoming the first Black faculty member in the university’s English department. Hayden achieved national and international recognition for his poetry. In 1976, he became the first African American to be appointed Consultant in Poetry by the Library of Congress – a role that is now known as Poet Laureate. Hayden passed away in Ann Arbor in 1980.
Alexander Jefferson was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1921. Jefferson completed combat training at Selfridge Field in Mount Clemens and pilot training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield. He served a long military career during World War II. During his time with the Tuskegee Airmen, Jefferson was shot down in France and captured by Nazi ground troops. He was a prisoner of war in German-occupied Poland before he was freed by General George Patton’s U.S. Third Army. Jefferson returned to Michigan, where he became a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, earned a teaching certificate, and obtained a master’s degree in education from Wayne State University. He was discharged from active duty in 1947 and retired from the Reserves in 1969 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Jefferson taught elementary school science in Detroit, was appointed assistant principal in 1969, and retired in 1979 after 31 years of service to Detroit Public Schools. In 2016, Senator Peters helped present theFrance’s Knight of the Legion of Honor Medal to Jefferson. This award is the highest honor France bestows on people who have carried out actions of great value to their nation. In 2016, Senator Stabenow also awarded Jefferson the Bronze Star Medal for his heroic service and meritorious achievements as a Tuskegee Airman and POW during World War II at the 61st Annual Detroit NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner.