Dr. Conrad LeRoy the President Emeritus of the Hartford CT Capital Community Technical College after a brief illness and 89 years, passed quietly from this life Saturday September 9, 2017 in the City of Philadelphia PA, in the presence of children. The son of LeRoy Mallett and Lonnie Thierry Mallett, Dr. Mallett was born in Ames Texas on February 22, 1928. Married to Claudia Gwendolyn Jones Mallett for 64 loving, mutually supportive and devoted years, Dr. Mallett was the proud father of Conrad LeRoy, Lydia Gwendolyn and Veronica Thierry. He was also the deeply caring and lovingly protective brother of his only sibling Mary Nora Lee Mallett Graves. Bound tightly to and always concerned about his grandchildren Conrad Sr. was extremely proud of Lydia's child Noel Shipp, Veronica's daughters Leah and Simone Jackson and Conrad Jr.'s children Alex, Kristan and Lauren Mallett. Though spread all over the United States Conrad Sr. was a formidable presence in the lives of all of his 20 nieces and nephews. Dr. Mallett was especially close to his sister Nora Lee's daughter Leslie Teresa Graves. He enjoyed the company of Lydia's fiancé Stanley White, Veronica's husband Kevin Brisco and Conrad Jr's wife Denise Williams Mallett.
Dr. Mallett's deeply American story is filled with profound tragedy and incredible triumph. Dr. Mallett's father LeRoy was taken away from his 24-year-old wife Lonnie and his eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter suddenly and tragically. When asked once by his granddaughter Simone to describe his childhood Conrad Sr. answered "Dicksonian". Required to fight with all of his might the forces of poverty and the State of Texas brutal racism, Conrad Sr. worked from the time he was eight years old until he retired from the Presidency of the Hartford Connecticut Capital Community Technical College in 1996. Blindingly smart, incredibly handsome, tall, strong and uncompromising Dr. Mallett persevered. The stories surrounding his childhood vary in the telling. Dr. Mallett was a fiercely proud man and his children speculate that he wanted no one to feel sorry for him so almost never shared the difficult details of his early family life. It is a fact that despite working after school for six hours each weekday and eight hours on Saturday, Dr. Mallett graduated from Miller High School with honors and with a perfect attendance record.
Dr. Mallett enlisted in the United States Army in 1946 and was honorably discharged in 1948. As told to his grandson Alex, after basic training he was sent to Florida as a part of an army engineering unit. His unit trained as airplane runway construction workers. Unit members believed that they would be sent to islands in the Pacific. Instead the unit was sent to Greenland. The Sgt. in charge of Dr. Mallett's unit asked whether or not any of the unit members could drive a double clutch, hot asphalt laying tractor. Dr. Mallett told his Sgt. that he had not driven such a vehicle but he was confident he knew enough about truck driving that he could figure it out. His Sgt. told him that he would start the assignment the very next day. Dr. Mallett asked if an instruction manual was available. The Sgt. secured the manual and Dr. Mallett read the manual cover to cover that night and then the next day got into the vehicle started it up, took off his shirt and successfully drove the double clutch vehicle over the course of the next 18 months.
Like many other returning African-American soldiers, Dr. Mallett was able to get a job at the United States Post Office. He also entered Wayne State University. Working full time while going to school full-time he met the love of his life Claudia Gwendolyn Jones.
While still a student at Wayne State University Dr. Mallett pledged KAPPA ALPHA PSI Fraternity and joined the Detroit Police Department. In a tribute to Dr. Mallett placed in the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional record by his dear friend and fraternity brother, Congressman John Conyers Jr., Dr. Mallett said "I say with some pride that the years of 1952 until 1957 were the most productive of my life. I'm married my darling wife, had three children and I completed college while working full time. Had it not been for my wonderful wife I would not been able to do any of those things". With the exception of one year when he received a scholarship from the Mott Foundation Dr. Mallett always held full-time jobs while earning his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. He held a Bachelor of Science in education and an Ed.D in Education Administration from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in American history from the University of Michigan.
Dr. Mallett's commitment to social justice was evident in all of his work. While it is true Dr. Mallett was only a Detroit Public middle and high School teacher for six years even today all of his children report instances where people come up to them and say "I still remember your father being my teacher. He was a remarkable man, an excellent teacher and made sure we understood that we were valuable and that if we worked hard we could achieve our goals". Conrad Sr. and his wife Claudia were important members of the City of Detroit's progressive and traditional political communities. In 1964 a fund-raising benefit was scheduled in Detroit for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Claudia and Conrad Mallett agreed to put their home on the line to cover the cost of renting the City of Detroit's Cobo Hall if the benefit did not raise enough money to pay the rental fee. Dr. Mallett reported that he and his wife had no trepidation even though they just moved into their house, was his wife's dream home. Dr. Mallett was a member of numerous non-profit boards and commissions including the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments, but was especially proud of the fact he was a founding member of the JIM DANDY Ski Club, the first African American ski club in the nation and Homes for Black Children one of the first adoption agencies for African American children.
In the 1965 Dr. Mallett became the first African-American assistant to City of Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh. Soon thereafter Dr. Mallett was appointed the Mayor's Chief Assistant and then the Director of the Department of Housing and Urban renewal. In 1968 Dr. Mallett left the Mayor's Office and joined Wayne State University as Vice President of Real Estate and Community/ Student Housing Development. In 1970 Dr. Mallett was elected to the Wayne County Board of Commissioners and served five two year terms. Notably he was elected by his colleagues as the first African American Chairperson of the Commission in 1978. In 1973 he was named VP for academic affairs at Wayne County Community College. He served in that position until 1977 when the City of Detroit's first African-American Mayor, Coleman A. Young appointed him, Director of the Department of Streets and Railways.
Six years later academia called again. Dr. Mallett left the City of Detroit to serve as VP for academic and student affairs at the Community College of Baltimore a position he held until 1985 when he was appointed President of the Capital Region Community College District in Hartford Connecticut. Upon reorganization of the Regional District he was appointed President of the Greater Hartford Community College. Renamed in 1992 he became the first president of the Capital Community Technical College, a comprehensive, publicly funded two-year college, offering career technical and liberal arts transfer programs. He retired as President Emeritus on June 30, 1996. Active in the Greater Hartford CT community for more than 25 years and along with his wife Claudia a supporter and lover of the arts, Dr. Mallett was an honorary board member of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and on the board of the Amistad Center for Arts and Culture. Dr. Mallett in full partnership with his beloved Claudia continued his social justice work as an active board member of the Hartford CT Community Renewal Team. His life was a testament to hard work, unyielding discipline and a profound love of family and community. Deeply loved and respected Dr. Conrad L. Mallett will be missed. A Memorial Service celebrating his life will take place Saturday, October 14, 2017 11:00 am at Plymouth United Church, 600 E. Warren, Detroit MI, 48201.
Published in The Detroit News & Detroit Free Press on Oct. 1, 2017.