Thursday, November 21, 2019

A fitting tribute

The late Don Barden honored in special renaming of Detroit street

Members of the family of the late Don Barden
unveil the new sign naming a Detroit
street in his memory. Photo by Dave Willettv
It was a veritable Who's Who of state, county and municipal officials who gathered with the family of the late Don Barden to help pay tribute to his memory during a standing- room only event last week inside the Comcast Service Center where Barden Cablevision was formerly housed.
Among the dignitaries helping Mr. Barden's family officially unveil the new sign renaming a Detroit street for him were Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Romulus Mayor Leroy Burcroff, Inkster Mayor Patrick Wimberly and many others. Mr. Barden's son, Don Barden Jr. and his brother, Romulus Mayor Pro Tem John Barden, attended the event along with multiple members of the Barden family.
It was Mr. Barden's family members who pulled the rope uncovering the new street sign at the corner of Lyndon Street and Schaefer Highway renamed Barden Street in his memory.
Mr. Barden, an Inkster native, was a major figure in the business world for decades.
“I'm just really glad we are honoring him today,” Duggan said.
 “We think of the street sign as a testament to my dad's hard work and achievements, as well,” Don Barden Jr. said.
“We want the young kids to know there was a person of color who made this happen, and if you have goals, you can do anything you put your mind to,” said John Barden.
Don Barden founded Barden Communications Inc. in 1981, building the cable television system to serve Detroit, Inkster, and several other suburbs. He then sold it to Comcast in 1994 for more than $100 million.
 “This is a historic day for our city. Detroiters will always remember Don's contributions with a street named in his honor,” said Montez Miller, who led the street name changing effort. “Don was my boss at Barden Cablevision, but he became a friend and mentor. I was among many he touched through his work and philanthropy.”
Romulus Mayor Pro Tem John Barden
and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan enjoy
 a laugh during the ceremonies honoring
 the late Don Barden last week. 
Photo by Dave Willett
Donald Hamilton Barden was born Dec. 20, 1943 in Inkster. He attended Inkster High School, where he starred on the football team for the Vikings. The ninth of 13 children, Mr. Barden grew up sharing a bed with his siblings and left for college at Central State University in Ohio in hopes of becoming a lawyer rather than an autoworker like his parents. He dropped out of college in 1965 and used $500 in savings to open a record store, Donnie's Records, in Lorain, Ohio. That was the start of an empire.
From there, he launched several businesses, including a real estate development firm, a nightclub, and a weekly newspaper, The Lorain County Times, in Lorain. He was also the first elected Black city council member from 1972-1975. By 1981, Mr. Barden bought an interest in a cable television station in Lorain and formed Barden Communications Inc. He expanded his cable system to include communities in his hometown of Inkster and the Detroit area.
Comcast hosts of the dedication ceremony Scott Monteith,
vice president of field operations, left and Craig D'Agostini,
vice president of external affairs, welcome the crowd
of family members and city officials and media. 
Using the capital gained from the Comcast deal, Mr. Barden ventured into the casino gaming industry when he acquired and operated the Majestic Star Casino, a riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana. He also owned casinos in Mississippi and Colorado.
He acquired three Fitzgeralds casinos for $149 million in 2001, making him the first Black businessman to own casino operations in Las Vegas. Mr. Barden used $14 million of his own money and raised $150 million from 40 institutional investors to seal the deal and upgrade operations.
Mr. Barden rose from humble beginnings to become a self-made multimillionaire and trailblazer in America's gaming industry. In 2010, Black Enterprise Magazine ranked Barden companies as the 10th highest grossing Black-owned company in the United States, with $405 million in revenue.
Mr. Barden never forgot his roots and was widely known for his charitable work, organizing a series of regional economic peace conferences to address Detroit's crime problem, national reputation, and need for economic development. Mr. Barden died on May 19, 2011 from lung cancer in Detroit at the age of 67. In addition to his son, Don, Jr., he is survived by a daughter, Alana M. Barden.
“I am honored to have my brother commemorated with this street sign,” said John Barden. “Don was dedicated to building a better Detroit. He created jobs and other opportunities for many people. This is a fitting tribute.”