Mullins eyes Congress: Attorney says education is his top priority


 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
Attorney Ray Mullins says he’s running for Congress partly because he believes the woman he hopes to defeat is acting like “a queen ascending to her throne.”
“This is America,” said Mullins, 71, sitting in his office in downtown Ypsilanti. “This should not be allowed to happen.”
At 71, Mullins could  look forward to an easy-going retirement.
Instead, he is going after John Dingell’s 12th Congressional District seat—the same one sought by Dingell’s wife, Debbie.
Mullins said he wouldn’t be doing it if Debbie Dingell had demonstrated more concern for the plight of young minority youths.
But he says the problem is too serious to ignore, and he has a solution.
“There’s a big gap in the level of quality of education of young African Americans, Latinos and Appalachian whites, as a matter of fact. I have a proven method of how to deal with it.”
He said that method is the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit and encourage high academic achievement among African-American high school students.
Mullins is a former president of the local branch of the NAACP, and though he’s not been involved with the organization since 1998, he wants to start something similar to ACT-SO.
“We need a program that shows education is a good thing, and that they should be rewarded just like athletes if they succeed academically,” he said.
The program would the entire community.
One of the reasons blacks are over-represented in prisons is because of a lack of education, he said.
“If you’re educated, you have a better chance of surviving and thriving and enjoying life,” he said. “It’s not the answer to everything, but it’s major. If you’re not educated, you can’t get a job and if you can’t get a job, you can’t earn a living legitimately and you go to prison.”
He said he’s talked to the Dingells about securing financing for such a program, with no success.
“Just to use a legal term: It pissed me off!” said Mullins, a founding member of the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan who has long been interested in social issues. “I’ve given it some thought and I’m well aware of the circumstances, but nobody’s really fighting for the little person, and the average person, regardless of color, but black kids pay a bigger toll than other people.”
The longtime Democrat and Ypsilanti High School graduate says he gets several requests for political donations every day.
“I’ve been practicing in Ypsilanti for 40 years and I haven’t gotten any business from some of the well-heeled Democrats,” he said. “And how am I supposed to be supporting everybody when they’re not supporting me?”
So now he’s busy collecting the required 1,000 signatures due April 22, hoping to see his name on the Aug. 4 Democratic primary. So far, he’s Dingell’s only Democratic challenger. 
A former captain in the U.S. Air Force, Mullins graduated in 1973 from the University of Michigan Law School and then clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Damon Keith.
Then, 40 years ago, he opened his Ypsilanti practice, where he specializes in family law, criminal law, and civil rights.
As the first black person to run for judge in Washtenaw County in 1976, he was told by a “Detroit clique” of African American law professionals that if they supported him financially, he’d have to do what he was told.
He declined.
“That’s the way they operate,” he said. “There’s no accountability, and the situation in Detroit is dire.  I’m a small-town boy and I have values. They’re beset by cronyism and criminality. And what have they done for the city? In Detroit, a person gets murdered every day for 30 years. The school system is in the tank.”
He said he knows the good things he can do for young people if he can ever get the money to do it.
“It’s a big issue, but at least I’ll put a dent in it,” he said. “(Dingell) has done some things nationally, but not locally. You can’t expect anybody whose a multi-millionaire Washington insider of doing anything if they’re elected if they haven’t done anything before, and had the ability to do it.”
 Had he stayed in Detroit, he believes he’d be better off financially today.
“But I’m not a big city boy,” he said. “So I’ve eked out a living here, and I’m the longest-serving black attorney in Ypsilanti’s history.”
He specializes in divorce law, child custody and support, criminal law, civil rights, criminal appeals, family law, personal injury and probate law.
Looking back on his career, he’s most proud of the 12 years he led the Ypsilanti-Willow Run branch of the NAACP. He helped raise a good deal of money for the organization, began some social service programs for the needy, and helped increase minority voter registration.
While he’s never held a political office, he’s been involved in the political process for decades.
He thinks the fact that few people are paying attention to the working class means he has a good shot at winning the election and will receive financial contributions from “like-minded” supporters.
“There are some well-heeled people who think like me who will help me financially,” he said.
“Once my petitions are in, I’ll be looked at as a viable candidate,” he added. “The people who are attuned politically don’t like the idea that (Dingell) can run based on a name.
“I enjoy campaigning. It’s a chance to shake hands and meet people, and ask and answer questions.”
He said that if he goes to Congress, he’ll still be serving and assisting people, as he does now.
“Becoming  a congressman will be like practicing law,” he said, “in the sense that I will be an advocate and counselor for the constituents of my district.”


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