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Updated: 2014-10-04T17:14:46.737-07:00

 



Meteoric rise ends in dramatic crash for Kilpatrick

2008-09-04T23:50:54.559-07:00

His reputation in tatters, Kwame Kilpatrick leaves the mayor's office with an uncertain future and an inescapable legacy.The man who came into power as the youngest mayor in Detroit history leaves his 11th-floor office as the city's only sitting chief executive convicted of a felony. In one day, he goes from being the most powerful man in the city to not having a bed of his own in Detroit -- he and his wife sold their home when they moved into the Manoogian Mansion.Kilpatrick's meteoric rise, and even more dramatic crash, is a story of hope and hubris, of a man whose potential was matched only by his flaws."He's very bright and very charismatic," said Timothy Bledsoe, a Wayne State University professor of political science and a Democratic candidate for the Michigan 1st District House seat. "But at some point, he wasn't able to restrain his use of power. It's like the old saying: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."Kwame Kilpatrick was born to be a politician. His father was chief of staff to Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara, and his mother was a state representative. He graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1988. There, he became friends with Christine Rowland, later known by her married name Christine Beatty, a woman who would later figure prominently in establishing Kilpatrick's political career, and later, destroying it.He was a star football player, and earned a scholarship to play at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. While there, he met and married his wife, Carlita.Kilpatrick returned to Detroit, where he became a popular elementary school teacher at Marcus Garvey Academy, forming the school's first basketball team and Boy Scout troop. When his mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, ran for Congress, Kilpatrick ran for her state House seat. He was a state legislator at 25, and the first African-American leader of the Democratic Caucus at age 29."He was a rock star," recalled Kelly Rossman, CEO of the Lansing-based Rossman Group public relations firm, who worked with Kilpatrick during his tenure in the Capitol. "He had this presence about him -- he was larger than life."In 2001, nine years out of college, Kilpatrick stood on stage on election night as the newly elected mayor, sporting a brilliant smile and a hole in his ear lobe where a diamond stud once rested.The 31-year-old was suddenly in charge of a nearly $3 billion budget, overseeing a city work force of 15,000 people.The former college football player was bigger than life from the moment he entered the mayor's office in 2002, carrying the hopes of a wounded city on his shoulders. National magazines wrote glowing profiles. Comedian Chris Rock based a movie character on Kilpatrick."I went with (Kilpatrick) into a neighborhood on a project early in his first term (as mayor)," Rossman said. "It was like Jesus walking down the street -- people were rushing out of their homes to touch him. I've worked with politicians all my adult life and I'd never seen anything like it."Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson recalled "feeling like a Lilliputian" when he sat in meetings with Kilpatrick. "He brought that kind of image to the city, that they had a guy who was big enough for the job, physically and intellectually. He was very quick on his feet and a great communicator."Detroit's downtown enjoyed a renaissance under Kilpatrick's leadership. Compuware completed its move downtown (a move begun under the Archer administration); Campus Martius, the center-city park complete with an ice rink, opened; Detroit hosted the Super Bowl and a baseball All-Star game. Kilpatrick renegotiated deals to build three permanent casinos in the city.The riverfront opened with a 2.5-mile Riverwalk that eventually will span five miles. Two venerable, closed hotels, the Book Cadillac and the Fort-Shelby, are under reconstruction with plans to open in the near future.But Kilpatrick's success was always overshadowed by his scandals.Rumors of a wild party at the Manoogian Mansion involving a stripper in 2002 persist six years later, not because there's evidence, but[...]