History museum

Opening of the Chief Grady exhibit at the History Museum; non-profit status approved – Leader Publications

DOWAGIAC — Two years ago, a local museum unveiled an art exhibit featuring images of three influential African Americans in Dowagiac history. After seeing how well this exhibit was received, the son of one of the featured citizens wanted to share more of his father’s legacy with the museum.

The Dowagiac Area History Museum unveiled a showcase Feb. 24 featuring Chief George Grady, a Dowagiac native and Michigan’s first African-American police chief. The exhibit, part of the permanent “Small Town, Big World: People Who Made History” exhibit on the lower level of the museum, features memorabilia, photographs, clippings and more.

When Dennis Grady, the son of George Grady who also had a long career in law enforcement, saw the reception the first exhibit received, he told Museum Director Steve Arseneau that he wanted donating his collection of his father’s artifacts.

“I am very happy to have him participate in a long-awaited exhibition,” said Arseneau. “He was a significant man not only in local history, but in American history, advancing African Americans in law enforcement.”

George Grady joined the Dowagiac Police Department in 1955. In 1965, around the same time President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, Grady was named Chief of Police.

“Local leaders were following the national news,” Arseneau said. “Moving initiatives forward to really get things done.

The centerpiece of the exhibit features a photo of Chief Grady standing next to a police cruiser. Inside the vehicle is Joe Underwood, who would become Cass County’s first African-American sheriff. The exhibit features a letter from President Richard Nixon and a signed photo of J. Edgar Hoover.

George Grady served as a Navy diver during the Korean War, and the exhibit features a replica of the diver’s helmet, along with photos from his time in service and a commendation for his outstanding performance in the rescue of the SS San Mateo in 1954.

To view the exhibit, visit the Dowagiac Region History Museum during regular business hours.

Friends of DAHM

After more than 18 months, the museum and some of its supporters have been approved for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Friends of the Dowagiac History Museum. The organization will operate as a separate entity from the museum and will be used to raise funds for museum operations, as well as provide additional support for events such as the museum’s annual fundraiser.

According to Arseneau, the idea for a nonprofit was born when they found out the museum couldn’t get a permit to hold a raffle at its annual fundraiser. Now that the organization is approved, Arseneau said the nonprofit will be holding a raffle for “cash and sound” at some point this summer.

“Once there are more people in town, we can go out and sell tickets,” Arseneau said. “We are also working on creating endowment and investment funds, which will then be there in perpetuity to help with the long-term stability of the museum.”

The museum has also created an account with Amazon Smile, which allows museum members to donate 0.5% of their Amazon purchases to the museum at no additional cost to the member. To sign up for Amazon Smile, go to smile.amazon.com.