Daniel Krichbaum, Michigan Civil Rights Leader, Dies

2/10/2015

By Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press

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Photo courtesy of Detroit Free Press

Daniel Krichbaum, a longtime civil rights and interfaith leader who was Gov. Jennifer Granholm's chief operating officer and former director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, died Tuesday of complications from a cerebral hemorhage. He was 72.
 

The Bingham Farms resident had developed a rare disorder over the summer that caused excessive protein in the blood vessels in the brain, said his wife, Susan Krichbaum.

Krichbaum, an ordained United Methodist minister, was president of a group that later became called the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, one of the state's oldest civil rights groups. He helped lead interfaith efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, bringing together different faiths to promote peace and tolerance.

"The community has lost a great leader, a great human being, someone who really cared," said Shirley Stancato, CEO of New Detroit. "He didn't just talk. He took action ... If I was in a fight, I would choose Dan."

Steve Spreitzer, president and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, said that Krichbaum "truly helped make this a better place for all of us to work, learn and live."

Prior to his work in state government, Krichbaum served as president and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, executive vice president of Detroit's public television station, WTVS (Channel 56), director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Detroit under Mayor Coleman Young, and was the minister of several churches in New York and southeast Michigan.

Raised in Salem, Ohio, Krichbaum got a bachelor's degree in sociology from the College of Wooster and a masters of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University.

He arrived in Detroit at the start of the 1967 riot, a coincidence that helped shape his views. He got a masters of philosophy of education degree from Wayne State University, according to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. In 1976, he got a PhD in philosophy of education from Wayne State University.

Then, "he took his ministry to the streets," said his wife.

Krichbaum became president and CEO of the Detroit office of the National Conference for Community Justice, which later became the Michigan Roundtable. In 2006, he fought hard to try and defeat the statewide ballot proposal that eliminated affirmative action in state universities, organizing a big rally at Bethany Baptist Church in Detroit.

Robert Cohen, head of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metro Detroit, said "Dan was a courageous champion for tearing down barriers that divide ethnic and faith communities and for building bridges between them. His leadership and wit will be widely missed."

The Dearborn-based Arab-American Civil Rights League said it "is saddened by the passing of a friend...Krichbaum was a model individual whose passion for civil rights and equality knew no bounds. His passion will surely be missed."

Spreitzer recalled how the influences of Krichbaum affected his work.

"As a seminary student in New York in the early 60's, Dan was fortunate to hear Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his famous Civil Rights speech at the historic Riverside Church, with Dr. King's words etched in Dan mind and heart," Spreitzer said.

"Dan Krichbaum was a model showing us all how a person of faith can pursue equality and justice for the vulnerable at all levels of public life," said David Crumm, former Free Press Religion Writer and Editor of ReadTheSpirit.com, an online magazine. "From preaching and writing as a United Methodist minister, to working with a wide range of nonprofits, to serving in the governor's office and heading the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, Dan saw no limits in working toward these values. Many men and women across Michigan have lost a champion and a mentor."

He is also survived by four adult children and four grandchildren. A memorial service is to be held 2:00 p.m. Feb. 14, Saturday, at First United Methodist Church of Birmingham, 1589 West Maple Road, Birmingham, followed by a 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. reception. Funeral arrangements are being handled by AJ Desmond and Sons.