James J. Couzens

Last updated
James J. Couzens
Sen. Jas. Couzens, (12-1-22) LCCN2016847013 (cropped).jpg
United States Senator
from Michigan
In office
November 29, 1922 October 22, 1936
Servingwith Charles E. Townsend (1922-1923), Woodbridge N. Ferris (1923-1927), and Arthur H. Vandenberg (1927-1936)
Preceded by Truman H. Newberry
Succeeded by Prentiss M. Brown
47th Mayor of Detroit
In office
Preceded by Oscar Marx
Succeeded by John C. Lodge
Personal details
Born(1872-08-26)August 26, 1872
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
DiedOctober 22, 1936(1936-10-22) (aged 64)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Children Frank Couzens

James J. Couzens (August 26, 1872 October 22, 1936) was an American businessman, politician and philanthropist. He served as mayor of Detroit (1919–1922) and U.S. Senator from Michigan (1922–1936). Prior to entering politics he served as vice president and general manager of the Ford Motor Company.


Early life and career

Couzens was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada in 1872, the son of soapmaker James and Emma Clift Couzens. [1] He attended the public schools of Chatham and spent time at a business college. [1] [2] He moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1890 and worked as a railroad car checker for the New York Central Railroad from 1890 to 1897. [2] Couzens' diligence at the railroad was noticed by Alexander Y. Malcomson, who hired the young man as a clerk in his coal business. [1] Couzens worked for Malcomson from 1897 to 1903. [2]

In 1898, Couzens married Margaret Manning. [1] The couple had six children: a son born in 1899 who died in infancy; Homer Couzens, born in 1900; Frank Couzens (later mayor of Detroit), [3] born in 1902; Madeline, born in 1904; Margo, born in 1910, and Edith, born in 1911. [1]

Association with Henry Ford

In 1902, Henry Ford was organizing the Ford Motor Company; Alexander Malcomson was a major stakeholder in the company. [1] The two were seeking additional stockholders; Couzens borrowed heavily and invested $2500 in the new firm. [1] Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 with John S. Gray as president, Ford as vice-president, Malcomson as treasurer, and Couzens as secretary. [1] Couzens took over the business management of the new firm for a salary of $2400. [1] In 1906, Gray died and Malcomson was eased out of the business, and Couzens became vice president and general manager of the company. [1] The company made both Ford and Couzens wealthy, due in no small part to Couzens's business acumen. [1] However, the two men gradually grew apart, and in 1915 Couzens resigned his position as general manager, although he retained a seat on the board. [1] In 1919, Ford purchased Couzens's shares in the company for $30,000,000. [1]

He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2012. [4]

Detroit work and political career

James Couzens was president of the Bank of Detroit and director of the Detroit Trust Company. [2] He was commissioner of street railways 1913-1915 and commissioner of the metropolitan police department 1916–1918. [2] He was mayor of Detroit 1919–1922. [2] As mayor, Couzens installed municipal street railways.

Senatorial career

Couzens in 1924 James J. Couzens npcc.25989.jpg
Couzens in 1924

Couzens was appointed November 29, 1922, as a Republican to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Truman H. Newberry. [2] This appointment was confirmed by his election on November 4, 1924, at which time he was also elected to a full term commencing March 4, 1925. He was reelected in 1930, serving in total from November 29, 1922, until his death on October 22, 1936. [2] He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1936, the loss generally attributed to Couzens support for Roosevelt's New Deal programs. [1] He was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Civil Service in the Sixty-ninth Congress, the U.S. Senate Committee on Education and Labor in the Sixty-ninth and Seventieth Congresses, the U.S. Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce in the Seventy-first and Seventy-second Congresses. [2] Couzens' actions in Congress generally followed those of the Progressive Republicans, advocating acts such as high graduated income tax and public ownership of utilities.

Couzens died in Detroit and is interred in Woodlawn Cemetery there. [2]


Couzens established the Children's Fund of Michigan with a $10,000,000 grant. He also gave $1,000,000 for relief in Detroit and began a fund to make loans to the physically handicapped. Under Dr Frank Norton, Dr Kenneth Richard Gibson and their secretary, Kathryn Hutchison, the Children's Fund, among other things, provided free health and dental work for indigent Detroit children. The Fund was set up with a 25-year life span, and the project ended in the mid-1950s. [ citation needed ]

In response to the Bath School Disaster, in which Andrew Kehoe, an embittered school board member and treasurer, killed 38 children by blowing up explosives he had planted in the basement of the Bath Consolidated School in Bath Township, Michigan, Couzens gave $75,000 to fund rebuilding. The new school was dedicated as the "James Couzens Agricultural School". He donated $600,000 to the University of Michigan for the building of a residence hall for female nursing students; it was named Couzens Hall in his honor. [5]

Couzens with his wife and daughters James Couzens and family hec.20118.jpg
Couzens with his wife and daughters

In the 1930s, Couzens donated $1 million to Children's Hospital of Michigan, in response to a birthday request from his wife for "a simple box in which to keep my pearls". Couzens complied, including a note within the box describing the $1 million gift, stating "My dear, your new pearls will be all the children who are eventually treated there". Today, Children's Hospital of Michigan is part of the Detroit Medical Center.

Disturbed by the failures of low-income housing projects that came out of the depression, he funded an alternative. He contributed $550,000 of his own personal money, combined with $300,000 from Oakland Housing, to create a managed low-income housing project called Westacres, in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The project gave the low-income factory working man a chance to own a home. The homes were located on 1 acre of land and the owners were required to farm the land to provide food for their families when seasonal layoffs took place.


Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest : "Pronounced exactly as cousins." [6]

The middle section of the Lodge Freeway in Detroit was originally named for him. After the entire freeway was renamed to The Lodge, only the service drive retains the Couzens name. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Henry Ford American businessperson

Henry Ford was an American industrialist and business magnate, founder of the Ford Motor Company and chief developer of the assembly line technique of mass production. By creating the first automobile that middle-class Americans could afford, he converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into an accessible conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the 20th century.

Albert Kahn (architect) American architect

Albert Kahn was the foremost American industrial architect of his day. He is sometimes called the "architect of Detroit". In 1943, the Franklin Institute awarded him the Frank P. Brown Medal posthumously. Many of Albert Kahn's personal working papers and construction photographs are housed at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library. His personal working library, the Albert Kahn Library Collection, is housed at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI. The Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian house most of the family's correspondence and other materials.

Truman Handy Newberry American politician

Truman Handy Newberry was an American businessman and political figure. He served as the Secretary of Navy between 1908 and 1909. He was a Republican U.S. Senator from Michigan between 1919 and 1922.

James McMillan (politician) American politician

James McMillan was a businessman and a Republican U.S. Senator from Michigan, as well as the chair of the McMillan Commission.

Prentiss M. Brown American politician

Prentiss Marsh Brown was a Democratic U.S. Representative and Senator from the state of Michigan.

Patrick V. McNamara American politician

Patrick Vincent McNamara was an American politician. A Democrat, he served as a United States Senator from Michigan from 1955 until his death from a stroke in Bethesda, Maryland in 1966.

Elmwood Cemetery (Detroit, Michigan) United States historic place

Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit is one of Michigan's most important historic cemeteries. Located at 1200 Elmwood Street in Detroit's Eastside Historic Cemetery District, Elmwood is the oldest continuously operating, non-denominational cemetery in Michigan.

Woodlawn Cemetery (Detroit, Michigan) cemetery in Detroit, Michigan

Woodlawn Cemetery is a cemetery located at 19975 Woodward Avenue, opposite the Michigan State Fairgrounds, between 7 Mile Road and 8 Mile Road, in Detroit, Michigan.

Oscar Marx American mayor

Oscar B. Marx was an American political figure, who was mayor of Detroit from 1913 to 1918.

Horace Rackham American businessman

Horace H. Rackham was one of the original stockholders in the Ford Motor Company and a noted philanthropist.

Alexander Y. Malcomson American businessman

Alexander Young Malcomson was a coal dealer from Detroit, Michigan who bankrolled Henry Ford's first successful foray into automobile manufacturing: the Ford Motor Company.

Detroit Club United States historic place

The Detroit Club is a private social club located at 712 Cass Avenue in Downtown Detroit, Michigan. The building was constructed in 1891 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Malcomson and Higginbotham was an architectural firm started in the nineteenth century and based in Detroit, Michigan. A successor firm, Malcomson-Greimel and Associates, still exists in Rochester, Michigan as of 2010.

John W. Smith (Detroit mayor) American politician (1882-1942)

John W. Smith was a long-time member of the Detroit City Council and was twice mayor of Detroit, Michigan.

Frank Couzens was the son of United States Senator James J. Couzens, and mayor of Detroit, Michigan during the 1930s.

John S. Gray (businessman) First president of Ford Motor Company

John Simpson Gray was a candymaker, business man, and banker from Detroit. He was also an original investor in the Ford Motor Company.

The following is a timeline of the history of the U.S. city of Detroit, Michigan.

1936 in Michigan

Events from the year 1936 in Michigan.

Couzens may refer to:


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Ford Richardson Bryan (1993), Henry's lieutenants, Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, pp. 67–73, ISBN   0-8143-3213-7
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States Congress. "James J. Couzens (id: C000812)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress .
  3. "Mayors of the City of Detroit". Detroit Public Library. 2006. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  4. "James J. Couzens". Hall of Fame Inductees. Automotive Hall of Fame. 2012. Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  5. 1 2 Harry Barnard (2002), Independent man: the life of Senator James Couzens, Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, p. Introduction, ISBN   0-8143-3085-1
  6. Charles Earle Funk (1936), What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website http://bioguide.congress.gov .

Party political offices
Preceded by
Truman Handy Newberry
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Michigan
(Class 2)

1924, 1930
Succeeded by
Homer S. Ferguson
Political offices
Preceded by
Oscar Marx
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
John C. Lodge
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Truman H. Newberry
United States Senator (Class 2) from Michigan
Succeeded by
Prentiss M. Brown
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Mason M. Patrick
Cover of Time Magazine
16 July 1923
Succeeded by
Roy Asa Haynes