LANSING, Mich (WLNS) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday signed an executive order to rename the state-owned Lewis Cass Building in downtown Lansing the Elliott-Larsen Building, honoring the legislators who sponsored Michigan’s landmark civil rights act.
“Together, Melvin Larsen and Daisy Elliott’s names have become synonymous in Michigan with the protection of civil rights,” Whitmer said in a statement.
Reps. Larsen, a Republican, and Elliott, a Democrat, introduced the civil rights legislation in 1976 and it was signed into law by Gov. William Milliken in January 1977. The act declared that the right to be free from discrimination is a civil right and expanded constitutional protections to a broader class of individuals.
The change marks the first time in Michigan history that a state building is named after an African American woman.
“The names we elevate express our values to the workers who enter those halls every day and to the public who those workers serve,” Whitmer said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
The name change comes amid a nationwide call for racial equity. Cass was a slave owner and was responsible for policies that forcibly removed native peoples from their tribal lands.
Cass was governor of Michigan while it was still a territory and later represented it in the U.S. Senate. He is also the namesake of a southern county, a move made as Michigan named several counties for members of President Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet while attempting to gain statehood. Cass was Jackson’s secretary of war.
The governor’s order, which she called a “small but meaningful step forward,” is effective immediately. The Department of Technology, Management and Budget will update the signage on the building as soon as possible.