The Archers and the Arts


By Taryn Hartman

Legal News

"Where is my grandson, Trey?" former 36th District Court judge and first lady of Detroit Trudy Archer asked last Thursday from a podium at the Detroit Public Library.

"He went to the bar," her oldest son Dennis Jr. answered, prompting laughter from a roomful of Archer friends, family and supporters who were gathered to celebrate a new exhibit detailing Dennis Archer's two terms as mayor and to raise funds for local cultural institutions close to the Archers' hearts.

Moments later, 5-year-old Dennis Archer III sprinted through the crowd and joined his grandmother on stage, where she shared stories of his recent trips with his mother, current 36th District Judge Roberta Archer, to the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Zoo, the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Science Center during his spring break.

Trudy Archer stressed the importance of the museums and other cultural foundations to the region's revival, as they attract families to the area. Funds raised at the library gala were donated to 13 local institutions including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theatre, Music Hall, the Henry Ford, the Parade Company and of course the five recently visited by Trey Archer and his mom.

Prior to Judge and then Mayor Archer taking the lectern, Mayor Dave Bing told the crowd that while Dennis Archer was mayor, the city was headed in the right direction and that he fully intends to re-start some of the programs Archer pioneered while in office.

Dennis Archer donated personal and municipal records from his two terms as mayor as well as his papers from his time as a Michigan Supreme Court justice to the library when he left office in 2002, a collection that is now available for research at the library's Burton Historical Collection.

"It's always been my impression that every mayor should give their papers to the Detroit Public Library," Archer said after addressing the room. "I wanted to give it to the library because I consider the library such an important part of our city and what it means for children."

Archer said his vision for the public collection is to provide organizations and groups like future mayoral transition teams with a resource detailing how his administration launched and maintained programs, citing the Motor City Blight Busters as just one example.

"I've given all the videos from when I served on different programs and different forums, they're all here," Archer continued. "It is a researcher's dream if they want to learn about the city."

In the adjacent room where the current exhibit stands, with the sounds of the Detroit Jazz Festival musicians playing the party in the next room slightly muted in the background, visitors walked through a maze of boards depicting significant events from Archer's time as mayor. It wasn't uncommon to hear one tell another, "I remember that," or "I'd forgotten about that."

Hard hats and shovels signify groundbreakings on revitalized housing and what are now casinos, Ford Field and Comerica Park. The Archers' tickets to Bill Clinton's inauguration and letters from Al Gore dated from his 2000 run for the presidency are pictured. Stories of the 1997 windstorm and early 1999 snowfall that challenged and changed city infrastructure are told. Even a mention of Nancy Kerrigan's attack at Cobo makes the exhibit, which is open through July at the library's main branch on Woodward.

Of his time as a public servant, Archer said, "I was just happy to be a drum major," leading different groups of people who wanted to accomplish positive things on behalf of the city and state. Recently named chairman emeritus of Dickinson Wright, Archer is returning to his roots as a lawyer by maintaining his solo practice in Dennis W. Archer PLLC, providing consulting work and sitting on five local boards, with no intention of returning to office.

"I'm having too much fun in my private life," he said. "It gives me more time that I can spend with the two grandchildren you saw,"-Roberta and Dennis Jr.'s son Chase is two-"My wife, who is retired after 17 years on the 36th District Court, and I can learn how to play golf again."

Published: Thu, May 6, 2010