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Brenda L. Rayford

Brenda L. Rayford, MSW, (B.R.) served as Executive Director, leading the organization for nearly 40 years. Rayford, who began her illustrious philanthropic career as a graduate intern with Black Causes Association–the forerunner of Black United Fund of Detroit (now Michigan).

Under B.R.’s direction, BUF’s financial and technical support to community-based initiatives reached far beyond BUF’s home base. For example, the Homework Hotline was formed with the help of a BUF grant and has grown to national status. The Sphinx Organization is changing the face of classical music through BUF funding. Organizations serving to assist residents with housing foreclosure prevention, domestic violence prevention, vocational training, family counseling, scholarship funding, health clinics, recreation centers and self-help programs are but a few examples of the initiatives receiving financial, or administrative support under her guidance.

A milestone in B.R.’s fruitful philanthropic career is her leadership in BUF’s successful five-year legal challenge against the federal government that opened the door to the federal employee payroll deduction campaign, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). This historic victory paved the way for other charitable organizations to participate in the CFC which was and is the largest employee deduction campaign in the world.

The board and staff of BUF will remember B.R. for her dedicated service and commitment to Black United Fund.  We are extremely grateful for her numerous contributions to BUF and to the Greater Detroit community over her long career. In tribute to her legacy of service to the organization, BUF has retired the title, Executive Director, so that B.R. will remain the only Executive Director in the organization’s history. In addition, in commemoration, upon her retirement in 2010, the Brenda L. Rayford Award was established and awarded annually to others who demonstrate outstanding community service.

Founding BUF members: Leon Allen, Stephanie Anderson, Lillie Bell, Atty. William Bledsoe, Edgar Brazelton, Jr., Georgia Brown, Lawrence Doss, Walter Douglas, Atty. Alfonso Fuller, Joyce Garrett, Catrea Heslip, Edward House, Paul Hubbard, Dr. Karl Gregory, Imogene V. Kendrick, Denise Lewis, Walter McMurtry, Jr., Dr. Charles Morton, Barbara Nelson, V. Lonnie Peek, Vivian Pope, Donald Roberts, Bennie Stoval, Archie Swanson, O’Neal Swanson, Natalie Tate, Dr. Charles Vincent.


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Lawrence C. Patrick


The sudden death of Lawrence Clarence Patrick, Jr. in January 2017 left a gaping hole in the heart of BUF of MI. Not only was he a long term supporter of the organization, Attorney Patrick  was a pioneer in BUF’s early years as a Board Member and helped to establish BUF’s golf outing an annual fundraiser.


Although he led many other causes in Detroit, BUF claimed Mr. Patrick as their own. He was born and raised in Detroit and was a graduate of Detroit Public Schools, Wayne State University and Harvard Law School. Staying true to his roots and fervent commitment to the City of Detroit, Attorney Patrick stayed local and  offered his talents to help improve educational opportunities for Detroit’s children.


In 1989, Mr. Patrick formed the HOPE campaign slate and successfully ran for the Detroit School Board. While leading the way as board president from 1989-1995,a number of major reforms were implemented.  He was an ardent supporter of parents having the right to choose the school their children attended, and the empowerment of principals to manage their own school. He spent much of his time cultivating collaborations among people and  encouraging teams to work together. His power as a leader truly was personified by his ability to inspire opposing positions to work together to solve problems. His pioneering ideas continue to shape the design of education policy and legislation across the country.


Attorney. Patrick  mentored a number of Black Youth that he empowered which is a true testament of one’s legacy. He taught young men how to work the problem versus fighting the problem. 


At the June 28, 2017 BUF Benefit Golf Outing, the first annual Lawrence C. Patrick, Jr. Award was presented to the Coleman A. Young Foundation for their leadership among youth through scholarships and mentorships.


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Garrett T. Townsend


In recognition of Garrett T. Townsend, Jr., whose daughter Niya Imani Townsend recently sponsored several scholarships to BUF 45 Scholars in his name. Mr. Townsend was truly an advocate for the children of Detroit. In addition to his role as a dad, he was passionately involved in and avidly organized many community activities for youth. These included a child’s bowling league, children’s skating events and his role as a mentor to a number of local young men. He authored a child’s poetry book entitled, “Kids are Really our Destiny,” and wrote the poem, “The Long Journey to Walk thru the Front Door of the White House,” to honor former President Barack Obama. 


Mr. Townsend grew up in Detroit and graduated from Northwestern High School. After an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force, he was self-employed as a financial planner. His major clients were the Detroit Public Schools and Wayne County Community College.


Mr. Garrett T. Townsend, Jr. departed this life on May 24, 2009, after heroically saving a young boy from drowning across the street from his home. Sadly, he was not able to escape and drowned in a ten-foot hole dug for future housing development.


Recently, several scholarships were dedicated in his name to two BUF 45 Scholars - Jalen Green who is a Freshman at Michigan State University majoring in Biochemistry, and Dante Fleming who is entering his Sophomore year at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.


Thanks to the generosity of his daughter, Niya whom he affectionately called, “Angel Doll,” Garrett T. Townsend Jr.’s epic legacy continues.