Home Local News Proposal would name Fitchburg City Hall after “beloved trailblazer” Frances Huntley-Cooper

Proposal would name Fitchburg City Hall after “beloved trailblazer” Frances Huntley-Cooper

Frances Huntley-Cooper

Momentum is building to pass a resolution naming Fitchburg City Hall after Frances Huntley-Cooper, a trailblazing politician who was the first and only African-American elected to lead a city in the state of Wisconsin.

Michael Johnson, president & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, got the ball rolling with an open letter to Fitchburg Mayor Aaron Richardson on Monday morning mentioning that Huntley-Cooper deserves the honor as a “beloved trailblazer, role model and leader in our region.”

“As a former Fitchburg resident, I watched the impact that Frances has made on our community and would like to recommend that the City Council take a vote to name your municipal building in her honor,” Johnson wrote in his open letter. “Frances Huntley-Cooper served as Fitchburg mayor from 1991 to 1993, and is the first and only African-American woman elected to lead a Wisconsin City. Her life and legacy is important to the city of Fitchburg and to the State of Wisconsin and we should celebrate, and acknowledge her contributions to Wisconsin.”

Johnson tells Madison365 that he’s been thinking about honoring Huntley-Cooper, who was also elected as a Barack Obama delegate to the 2008 Democratic Convention, for at least a year. His recent work to get state leaders to approve erecting a statue at the state capitol building of another Wisconsin African American trailblazer, Vel Phillips, helped bring Huntley-Cooper to the forefront of his mind.

“She deserves it. She’s been a lifelong City of Fitchburg resident. She was alder, the president of the City Council, and she chaired the finance and personnel committee. She was the chairwoman of Madison College for almost a decade,” Johnson says. “She was the president of the AKAs [Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority – Kappa Psi Omega chapter]. Her entire life has been about giving back to others. She really deserves it.”

Johnson adds that if Huntley-Cooper would be approved, he believes that she would become the first Black woman in Wisconsin to have a municipal building named after her and will probably be one of only a few in the country.

Prior to being elected mayor in 1991, Huntley-Cooper served as Fitchburg District 1 alder and president of the Fitchburg Common Council. That District 1 seat is now held by Fitchburg Alder Joe Maldonado who says he “fully supports” the resolution.

“Frances is a mentor of mine. She was my campaign treasurer when I ran for office. She has been a huge support for youth in the community through NAACP. She has always given so much of herself,” Maldonado tells Madison365. “Obviously, her being the first and only elected African-American mayor in the state of Wisconsin has been a huge example for BIPOC candidates running for office.

“I would be honored to have her name permanently in the city’s memory and I’m fully supportive of having her name as part of the legacy of Fitchburg,” he adds.

Johnson says that a Frances Huntley-Cooper Municipal Building would be so important and inspiring for the young people.

“Forty or fifty years from now, this could very easily be forgotten … the fact that this historic moment happened in Fitchburg. They should want to celebrate it. This is part of history,” Johnson says. “We would love to see buildings and statues in Wisconsin that represent people of color. What we’re doing with Vel Phillips and hopefully doing with Frances Huntley-Cooper, will open up the door for other people of color to advocate for the same thing.”