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Activist educator John Telford spoke to Angelo Henderson at the #WCHB studio regarding his run for Mayor of Detroit. He spoke about the city’s current financial state and his solution to bringing new business to the city. 

2013 Detroit Mayoral Candidate John Telford

2013 Detroit Mayoral Candidate John Telford

Dr. John Telford:    

John Telford was born in Detroit in January of 1936 and educated in Detroit Public Schools and at Wayne State University, where he earned a B.A. and M.Ed. in English and a doctorate in Secondary Administration.  After teaching and coaching at Detroit Southeastern, Finney, and Pershing High Schools, he was promoted to Department Head at Butzel Junior High School in 1966 and at King High in 1968.  He left DPS to become the Assistant Principal at Walled Lake Western High and swiftly climbed the administrative ladder in several suburban districts and at Macomb County College, where he directed the 3,400-student Division of Basic Education and was suspended in 1972 for insubordination when he brought in the Black Panthers to speak. He served as the Berkley Schools’ Health & Physical Education Director between 1972 and 1977 and as Executive Director of Secondary Education in the Plymouth/Canton Schools from 1977 until 1984.   He was named a Kettering Foundation IDEA Distinguished Educator in 1982.  Ascending to the Rochester Deputy Superintendency in 1984, he received lavish newspaper and television publicity for aggressively recruiting and hiring African-American teachers, principals, and directors despite considerable community opposition and midnight gunfire into his Rochester Hills home.  After weathering that storm and establishing his multicultural curricular and staffing innovations, he retired as Deputy Superintendent in 1991 (despite having a renewed three-year contract in his pocket), moved back home to Detroit, and continued to work full-time in several venues.

Telford coached high school and college track champions, taught at Wayne State and Oakland Universities, wrote The Longest Dash (a bestselling track book), many articles, and more than a thousand columns that have appeared in several newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the Oakland Press, the Michigan FrontPage, the Gazette, the Inner-City Plow, and theObserver/Eccentric chain.  From 2001 until 2011, he wrote the Telford’s Telescopecolumns in The Michigan Chronicle , which now appear in the Detroit Native SUN.Harmonie Park Press purchased and published his memoirs, A Life on the Run – Seeking and Safeguarding Social Justice (  He has presided on several civil rights-oriented boards and directed a counseling center and a cluster of charter schools in Detroit, as well as a number of social service agencies in the city.  He returned to DPS in 1999 as an English teacher and track coach at Southwestern High, subsequently serving as the Executive Director supervising principals in the Southwest Quadrant, as Executive Director of Community Affairs, and now as the pro bono interim Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, sharing district leadership with an emergency financial manager.

He has hosted programs on five Detroit radio stations, including the John Telford Show on WCHB, WQRS, and now on WEXL AM 1440, plus a show on TV 33 (Comcast 20 Detroit).  Then-Governor Jennifer Granholm and Congressmen Hansen Clarke and John Conyers have appeared on his shows.  Dr. Telford served on Channel 2’s Education Advisory Board and on Mayor Archer’s and Governor Granholm’s task forces on school reform.  He co-wrote the action plan for DPS’ successful Special Education millage campaign and chaired the City Council’s Education Committee of its Task Force on Missing Children.  A former Golden Gloves champion in Detroit who was also undefeated on the United States Track Team in Europe, he outran Olympic champions as an All-American sprinter at Wayne State University, which named him its Distinguished Alumnus of 2001 for civil rights activism.  He is also in WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame.  In June, 2011, he was given the Joe Louis Spirit of the Champ Award for his civil-rights activism.  In 2010, the Detroit Track Old-Timers organization gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award.  Between 2003 and 2008, Dr. Telford served as Curriculum Coordinator, Social Studies Curriculum Leader and teacher, and Athletic Director and in-house Parent-Community Liaison Officer at Finney High School, where the track was named for him.  He is the only retired superintendent in America who ever returned to an inner-city high school to teach.  He is president of Antonio Gates’ Opening Gates Foundation board in Michigan and of Clear Purpose Foundation’s advisory board, and vice president of Detroit’s Team for Justice. Late in 2008, he became the Superintendent of the Madison Schools—a job from which he was fired in 2009 for recruiting hundreds of Detroit students against the wishes of white residents.   In 2011, Harmonie Park Press ( also purchased and published his book What OLD MEN Know and has just released his  latest book,Creative Insubordination – 40 Successful Strategies.

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