Bishop Moses Anderson, who lived in Dearborn for several years before moving to Livonia in 2009, died Tuesday, Jan. 1, at age 84.
The following article about Bishop Anderson is excerpted from a story in Best Dearborn Stories: Voices From Henry Ford’s Home Town, Volume II, published last November by the Museum Guild of Dearborn.
David L. Good is chair of the Dearborn Historical Commission.
Every street has its characters—odd or otherwise memorable—who in turn give neighborhoods their character. Our block of North Waverly near Cherry Hill had its quota, though there is one whom we’ll always remember with special fondness, partly because he never tried to make us go to his church.
I don’t really want to demean him by calling him a character, but he was certainly the one person who exercised the strongest influence for good on our block. He was in his late 70s when he moved in a couple of doors away about eight years ago. We first knew something was up when the male nurse with the two yappy pug dogs sold the house, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit bought it and started painting and doing renovations. Our new neighbor, we were told, would be a Catholic auxiliary bishop named Moses Anderson. And he was not only a bishop, he was a black bishop—one of only a very few in the country.
As it turned out, our new neighbor was indeed a bishop, and he was indeed black. To my knowledge, Bishop Anderson was the first black resident of our block, though not the last. In that sense, it was a watershed moment of sorts for the folks on North Waverly Street. Many of us had grown up in the days when Mayor Orville L. Hubbard made sure we got the best city services, and, we remembered, he also did his best to let people know he was “for segregation, 1 million percent.” So most of us hadn’t had much experience living with black people.
Bishop Anderson, who sometimes referred to himself as “a poor little boy from Selma, Alabama,” was everything we anticipated of a man of the church – and more. I know of no one on the block who made him feel less than welcome, and I know of no one who could have been a better neighbor and friend to all than he was. He actually helped strengthen the sense of unity and collaboration on a street where there wasn’t as much interaction as there used to be.
We had neglected the block parties that were an annual staple of summer when our kids lived with us. Bishop Anderson made sure the gatherings were back on schedule, and he enriched them by demonstrating his considerable culinary skills on the grill.
We also had an ongoing problem with flooding in our street during heavy rainstorms. So there was Bishop Anderson—no rain gear, no umbrella – getting sopping wet as he bent over the sewer near his curb, poking at it with a rake handle to make sure the water could go down.
Bishop Anderson was a true intellectual, firmly committed to evangelization, and yet, to his credit, he never did any proselytizing around our household. He knew we were, to put it politely, unchurched, but the most he ever did was to lend us a C.S. Lewis book on Christianity. He was more apt to bring up my interest in Mayor Hubbard and to urge satire, along the lines of Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” as a salve for prejudice.
North Waverly Street’s great experiment in race relations—and its successful demonstration project in brotherhood—came to an end about four years ago when Bishop Anderson told us he was having problems climbing stairs and would be moving to a ranch home . . . in Livonia. What kind of irony is that, we thought: leaving a suburb that for decades was vilified as a bastion of racism and settling in a another that’s been widely described as the “whitest city in America”?
But, we knew, if there was anybody who could set Livonia straight about what good neighbors black people can be, it was Bishop Anderson. The poor little boy from Selma, Alabama, had left an indelible mark on North Waverly Street, and we were sure he’d do the same in his new neighborhood.
A viewing for Bishop Anderson is set for 2-8:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, with a vigil service at 7 p.m, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 9844 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Visitation will continue on Monday, Jan. 7, until the bishop's funeral mass at 11 a.m.
Condolences may be sent to his nephew, Mr. Terry Walker, 1703 Broad Street, Selma, AL 36701.
To learn more about the life and work of Bishop Anderson, visit his page on the Archdiocese of Detroit website.