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  • Writer's pictureDoctor Detroit

Philip A. Hart

Updated: Mar 13

In July, Detroit City Councilmember Mary Waters proposed renaming Hart Plaza to Martin Luther King Plaza, later updating her suggestion to Hart/King Plaza. Some may not realize that Hart Plaza is officially named “Philip A. Hart Plaza,” in honor of the U.S. Senator from Michigan. So, who exactly is Philip Hart, and what did he do to deserve such recognition?

Philip Aloysius Hart was born on December 10, 1912, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he gained a reputation as an outstanding debater. In 1937, he earned his law degree from the University of Michigan.

During World War II, from 1941 to 1946, he served in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel with the 4th Infantry Division. He was wounded during the invasion of Normandy and was later decorated with the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Invasion Arrowhead, and Croix de guerre.

After leaving the military, he returned to Detroit and practiced law for a private firm before entering politics. As a Democrat, he was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in 1952 and later served as a legal adviser to Governor G. Mennen Williams.

In 1954, he successfully ran for 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 earned a reputation as a man of deep personal conviction and integrity. He championed various causes, including education, the environment, civil rights, and economic equality. He was a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and served as the floor manager for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As the chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee, he fearlessly took on big business, even when it went against his own political interests, demonstrating his commitment to protecting consumers from powerful corporations.

Senator Hart was highly respected by both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives alike. Due to his moral and ethical stances, he earned the moniker “Conscience of the Senate.”

In June of 1975, Hart announced that he would not seek a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. Just a month later, he was diagnosed with cancer, and he passed away on December 26, 1976.

Two years later, in honor of his legacy, Hart Plaza was named after him.


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