December 4, 2017
Old school: U-M in History
Albert H. Wheeler was the first African-American professor to earn tenure and was an advocate for black rights, culminating in his election as Ann Arbor's first black mayor. (Photo courtesy of U-M's Faculty History Project0
Albert H. Wheeler earned a Doctor of Public Health degree at the University of Michigan in 1944. After a brief period working as a research assistant, he became the first African-American to be appointed to a tenure track position at U-M in the newly formed field of microbiology, earning tenure in 1959. The Board of Regents approved his emeritus professor status in 1982. Wheeler also was an active civil servant in advocating for black rights. He helped found the forerunner to Ann Arbor's NAACP chapter, the Civic Forum, and in 1975 he was elected the first black mayor of Ann Arbor. During this time, he established the Human Services Department and a Fair Rental Practices Commission, both of which responded to housing practices which excluded black residents from moving to the city.