DETROIT — William Lucas, a Black man who made national headlines when he switched political parties to become the Republican nominee for Michigan governor in 1986, has died at age 94, his family said.
Lucas died of natural causes Monday.
“He was a fine public servant who provided decades of dedicated service to the people of Detroit and Wayne County,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said.
Lucas, a New York City native, landed in Michigan as an FBI agent. He quit to become Wayne County undersheriff and subsequently was appointed sheriff to fill a vacancy. He was elected in 1970 and twice reelected.
Lucas won an election in 1982 for the new position of county executive. But his biggest political move came four years later when he switched parties to challenge Gov. Jim Blanchard, a Democrat.
“Bill Lucas has 3 million constituents — that’s why the Republican Party is rolling out the red carpet for him,” Republican state Sen. John Engler, who was elected Michigan’s governor in 1990, told The New York Times in 1986.
Republicans believed Lucas could get crucial votes in heavily populated southeastern Michigan, but Blanchard won in a landslide.
Lucas later served as a Detroit-area judge.