DETROIT (WWJ) - His is a true rags to riches story. Detroit businessman Don Barden, who brought cable television to Detroit, has died.
Family members confirmed that Barden, 67, passed away Thursday morning at Karmanos Cancer Institute. He had been battling lung and brain cancer for several months.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who called Barden a personal friend, told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas Barden’s death is a “major loss.”
Bing said Barden was considered a champion of minority business who many people looked to for advice. Bing also credited Barden with doing everything he could to help improve the city.
The Mayor released the following statement to the media: ”Don was a stalwart leader and businessman in this community, as well as a friend. We were aware of his longtime illness, and dreaded this day. We send our condolences to his family.”
Detroit City Council member Saunteel Jenkins remembers Barden, saying, “I remember when Barden Cable first came about… and just knowing that there was an African-American man at the head of this gigantic company was amazing and an inspiration to me.”
Jenkins also pointed to Barden’s accomplishment as the first African-American owner of a casino and said he set the standard for what you can do if you work hard enough and put your mind to it.
Former Detroit City Councilman Nicholas Hood II remembers Barden as a “pioneer” who was a history-maker in the city of Detroit. In 1981, Barden won the right to wire Detroit for cable television.
Barton had a large business empire, run out of his corporate headquarters in downtown Detroit. He was in the casino real estate and entertainment industries.
According to his biography from the Majestic Star Casino website, prior to establishing Barden Companies, Barden successfully built, owned, and operated cable television stations in Inkster, Romulus, Van Buren, and Detroit, making Barden Cablevision one of the nation’s largest urban cable systems.
Barden’s real estate development unit, Waycor Development Company, successfully completed a number of diverse projects for Wayne County, including Chene Park, a 144-unit multi-family rental development in Detroit, and Clairpointe of Victoria Woods, a luxury single family subdivision, also in Detroit.
In the early 1990′s, Barden took the lead in efforts to revitalize Detroit by organizing a series of Regional Economic Peace Summits to address the problems of crime, national image, and economic development. The summits drew widespread support throughout the metropolitan Detroit region.
With a business career spanning more than 40 years, Barden guided his company and its affiliates to revenues of more than $519 million, making his empire one of the largest African American-owned businesses in the country.