Philip A. Hart
In July, Detroit City Councilmember Mary Waters proposed that Hart Plaza be renamed Martin Luther King Plaza and then later updated her suggestion and proposed it be renamed Hart/King Plaza. Some did not realize that Hart Plaza is officially named “Philip A. Hart Plaza,” and was named in honor of the U.S. Senator from Michigan. So, who is Philip Hart, and what did he do to deserve such an honor?
Philip Aloysius Hart was born December 10, 1912, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He studied at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he was known to be an outstanding debater. In 1937, he received his law degree from the University of Michigan.
During World War II, from 1941 to 1946, he severed in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel with the 4th Infantry Division. He was wounded in the invasion of Normandy and later received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Invasion Arrowhead, and Croix de guerre.
After leaving the military, he returned to Detroit where he practiced law for a private firm before entering into politics. As a Democrat, he was appointed the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in 1952, and later became a legal adviser to Governor G. Mennen Williams.
In 1954, he ran and was elected lieutenant governor of Michigan and served two terms.
In 1958, he was elected to the United States Senate and held the seat for 18 years. As Michigan’s Senator, Hart built a reputation as a man of deep personal conviction and integrity. He prided himself on being an advocate for all people - advocating for education, the environment, civil rights, and economic equality. He was a devoted supporter of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and served as the floor manager of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As the chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee, he took on big business even when it was detrimental to his own political interests. He was truly passionate about protecting consumers from powerful corporations.
Senator Hart was held in great esteem by Democrats and Republicans, both liberals and conservatives. Due to moral and ethical stances, he was called the “Conscience of the Senate.”
In June of 1975, he announced he would not run for a fourth term in the US Senate. A month later, he was diagnosed with cancer. He would succumb to in on December 26, 1976.
Two years later, Hart Plaza was named after him.