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Our History



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Also known as Woodward Lawn Cemetery in its early days.

Woodlawn's Early Days

At over 123 years old, this cemetery holds much of the history of the Detroit area within its borders.  Monuments and mausoleums throughout the cemetery memorialize the lives of Detroit greats from the auto and music industries, key philanthropists to education, art and other causes, major political and financial figures and many others who served as an important part of history.  With architectural structures modeled in ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman styles, Woodlawn serves as an outdoor museum to be revered by all.  These grand architectural structures eternally memorialize these important historical figures with solid and intricate design, built to be honored forever.   

Founded in 1895, Woodlawn features a beautiful landscape in a park-like setting on 140 acres.  Woodlawn opened the next year and quickly became the preferred cemetery of Detroit's finest and most notable citizens.   See below for a list of a few of the many notable burials at this cemetery.  

A Connection to the Ancient Past

Many of the mausoleums at Woodlawn were built by the Lloyd Brothers Monument Company using stone and  stainless steel among other materials meant to last for eternity.  These timeless structures were created in styles from ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations.  

Woodlawn continues to offer structures and monuments of the most durable material available through Coldspring and Star Granite.  These structures are almost entirely customizable and designed to memorialize lives forever.  For more information, contact us.  

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Rosa Parks

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Erma Vernice Franklin

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John Francis Dodge 

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Horace Elgin Dodge

Notable Burials

Rosa (Rosa Louise) Parks (MacCauley), 2/4/1913-10/24/2005

Civil Rights Pioneer and Social Activist. An African-American working woman, she became most famous for her refusal in 1955 to give up a bus seat to a white man who was getting on the bus, an incident that led to her arrest and inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to lead the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, one of his first Civil Rights actions. Because of this action, she was called the “Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.” She was the 31st person, the first woman, and the second African American to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. She was interred next to her husband and mother at Woodlawn Cemetery Mausoleum.   Her funeral service was 7 hours long and was held on November 2, 2005, at the Greater Grace Temple Church in Detroit. After the service, an honor guard from the Michigan National Guard laid the U.S. flag over the casket and carried it to a horse-drawn hearse, which was intended to carry it, in daylight, to the cemetery. As the hearse passed the thousands of people who were viewing the procession, many clapped, cheered loudly and released white balloons. Parks was interred between her husband and mother at Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery in the chapel's mausoleum. The chapel was renamed the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel in her honor.[2]

Erma Franklin, 3/13/1938-9/7/2002

R&B/Soul Musician. Born Erma Venice Franklin in Shelby, Mississippi, she as the sister of singers Carolyn and Aretha Franklin, and the daughter of Rev. C.L. Franklin. In high school she began singing with her sisters in the vocal group ‘The Cleo-Patrettes’ and began recording on the local Detroit Radio Label JVB, but the group broke up after high school. In 1961 she auditioned for the Epic Record Label and moved the Now York to record her debut album, “Her Name Is Erma” which came out in 1962 and featured jazz, pop, and R&B tunes. One of her songs on that album, ‘Abracadabra’ was written by Van McCoy who would later have a success with the hit, ‘The Hustle’. Next she joined the Atlantic Record Label and her career suddenly took off more than it had before, later singing with producer/songwriter Bert Berns of Shout Records in 1967. That same year she recorded the song, ‘Piece Of My Hear’ written by Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy. The song became her first Top Ten R&B Hit and later Janis Joplin’s signature song. She moved back to Detroit in 1972, where she worked on a PR farm and at the Boysville Children’s Charity, and during the 1980s and 1990s she toured with her sisters.

Carolyn Franklin, 5/13/1944-4/25/1988

R&B/Soul Musician. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, she was the younger sister of Erma Franklin, Aretha Franklin, and the daughter of the Reverend C.L. Franklin. A talented singer and songwriter she wrote music for her and her sisters, as well as singing back up for them.

Rev. C. (Clarence Le Vaughn) L. Franklin, 1/22/1915-7/27/1984

Religious Leader. Well known and influential minister in Detroit, Michigan and throughout the nation who founded New Bethel Baptist Church where he pastured for 33 years. He was also father of R&B singer Aretha Franklin and is considered to be one of the greatest orators of the 20

th Century. It was when the family moved to Cleveland, Mississippi that Rev. Franklin found his calling. He was ordained and begin preaching at age sixteen. He later married Barbara Siggers, a church pianist. To this union where born five children. While Rev. Franklin’s family grew, so was work of his outstanding talent as a minister, and demand grew rapidly for him to preach as churches throughout the country. Before settling in Detroit, Rev. Franklin served as pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Memphis, TN and Friendship Baptist Church in Buffalo, NY. In 1946 he moved to Detroit and founded the New Bethal Baptist Church. At his church Rev. Franklin started a food ministry, offered financial and legal help for the homeless and conducted a prison ministry. He also became an active member of the civil rights movement. One of his greatest accomplishment was co-organizing the 1963 “Walk Toward Freedom March” with friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Franklin was also actively involved in the Urban League, NAACP, and on the Executive Board of S.C.L.C.  His 4-hour funeral held at New Bethel was attended by an estimated 10,000 people inside and outside the church which included his colleagues from the preaching world, politicians, entertainers, journalist, and hundreds of supporters and members of his congregation. Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. eulogized his friend and colleague as a “Good Soldier.” Afterwards, his casket was placed into a black 1940 La Salle that led a 65-car procession to Woodlawn Cemetery.

Anna Thompson Dodge, 1866-1970

Widow of Horace Dodge and Philanthropist.

Horace Elgin Dodge, 5/17/1868-12/10/1920

Automobile Engineer. Brother of John Francis Dodge. In 1910 they opened a large auto parts plant in Hamtramck, MI and supplied auto parts and engines to the Fords Motor Company and the Olds Motor Works. The first Dodge automobile appeared on November 14th, 1914. Both brothers died in 1920 and Dodge was purchased by the Chrysler Corporation in 1928.

John Francis Dodge, 10/25/1864-1/14/1920

Businessman. He purchased Meadow Brook Farm, a 320-acre estate, in 1908; it was later expanded to 1,500 acres. The Dodge Brothers were machinists and bicycle builders. They supplied the Ford motor Company and were both among the original Ford investors. 

Matilda Dodge Wilson, 1883-1967

Widow of John Dodge and Alfred Wilson, benefactor of Michigan State University-now Oakland University and Detroit’s Music Hall and Lieutenant Governor of Michigan

Alfred Wilson, 1880 - 1962

Lumber Merchant.  Second Husband of Matilda Dodge Wilson.  

Obie (Renaldo) Benson, 6/14/1937-8/1/2005

Singer, Songwriter. A founding member of the Motown group The Four Tops. One of Obie’s greatest songwriting accomplishment was when he, along with Al Cleveland co-wrote with Marvin Gaye the 1971 hit “What’s Going on.”

Roy Dikeman Chapin Sr., 2/23/1880-2/16/1936

Businessman, President Cabinet Secretary, Automotive engineer, Manufacturer, and Designer. As an employee of R. E. Olds, he set a speed driving record by piloting a little Curved Dash Olds automobile from Detroit, Michigan to the 1901 New York Auto Show, in New York City, covering the distance of the mud roads in just eight days, a remarkable motoring feat for the times. He was one of the founders, along with Howard E. Coffin, Roscoe B. Jackson, F.O. Besner, J.J. Brady, and Hugh Chalmers, of The Hudson Motor Car. He was appointed as United States Secretary of Commerce, serving from 1932 to 1933, under President Herbert Hoover. 

Albert E. Cobo, 10/2/1893-9/12/1957

Detroit Mayor. Served as the Mayor of Detroit, Michigan from 1950 until his death in 1957. Also served as a Republican Candidate for Governor of Michigan in 1956.

Billy (Roquel) Davis, 7/11/1932-9/2/2004

Songwriter, Record Producer, and Singer. He contributed to a number of soul hits and some of the most popular commercial jingles, mostly for Coca-Cola. The most notable of these, “Lonely Teardrops”, was written by Davis, Gordy, and Gordy’s sister Gwen. He also worked alongside the Dells and Little Milton and wrote songs for Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, The Supremes and Gladys Knight. 

Davis’s success garnered him a position writing and producing jingles at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency where he eventually rose to Senior Vice-President and Music Director. While at McCann-Erickson, Davis’s primary client was The Coca-Cola Company, for which he wrote and produced the famous jingle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)”, used in a 1971 Coca-Cola television advertisement. He also wrote and produced other jingles such as “It’s the Real Thing” and “Things Go Better With Coke” for Coca-Cola, and “If You’ve Got the Time” for Miller Beer.

Benson Ford Sr., 7/20/1919-7/27/1978

Second son of Edsel Bryant Ford I and Eleanor Lowthian Clay, he was at first named Edsel Junior, but re-named Benson, a Hudson family name, his maternal grandmother’s maiden name. Easygoing, affable and good-humored, he worked in the Ford Rouge with Henry Ford II, his older brother, until their enlistment after Pearl Harbor. In June 1943, he and Henry II represented the 41.9% of shares that had been held by their father, Edsel I. one of the 1950s Ford Motor Co. directors and vice presidents, he ran the Mercury Div. 1948-56, then took charge of Lincoln-Mercury dealer relations.

Edsel Bryant Ford, 11/6/1893-5/26/1943

Ford Motor Company President. The only child of Henry Ford I and Clara Bryant, he married Eleanor Lowthian Clay in 1916. A designer and executive, he was the first secretary of the Ford Motor Company, becoming its president in 1921 and serving until 1943. He developed the collections of decorative arts and Americana at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, and served on the Arts Commission of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) from 1925 to 1943. He and Eleanor amassed a huge priceless art collection, most of which was bequeathed to the DIA with reproductions created for their home-turned-museum, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan.

Geraldine Ford, 11/5/1926-10/5/2003

Judge. She was the first female African-American elected to a judgeship in the United States. Although she was known by many as “Mean Geraldine” for her strict interpretation of the law and tough sentences, she was also considered fair and just. In 1962, she became an assistant U.S. attorney, and in 1964, she was named assistant corporation counsel for Detroit. She gained national attention as the first female African-American judge when she was elected to Recorder’s Court in 1966. She retired there in 1998. In 2004, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s hall of Fame.

Susie Garrett, 12/29/1931-5/24/2002

Actress. Susie Garret had rolls on ‘Punky Brewster’ and ‘The Jeffersons’. She played Betty Johnson on ‘Punky Brewster’ and also appeared in 10 episodes of the CBS television show called the ‘Jefferson’s’, that featured an African American family’s rise into high society. She also appeared in the film “the Wicked Stepmother”. Her last performance was on a PBS special, she narrates and plays the part of Sojourner Truth in “The Sojourner Truth Story”. She also co-founded an acting school in Las Angeles, the Crossroads Arts Academy Theatre. 

Billy Henderson, 8/9/1939-2/2/2007

Soul Singer. He was lead singer and co-founder of the Detroit vocal group, “The Spinners”. They were considered the greatest soul group of the 1970s, with a string of Top 20 hits that included “It’s A Sham,” “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “Then Came You,” and “The Rubberband Man.” They were nominated for six Grammy Awards and became the second black musical group to get a star on the  

Hollywood Walk of Fame. They are also members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

DeShaun “Proof” Holton, 10/2/1973-4/11/2006

Rap Musician. Also known as Dirty Harry and Oil Can Harry. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he was a member of the popular rap group, ‘D12.’ The group also included the members Swift, Kon Artis, Bizarre, and Kuniva. A longtime friend of Eminem’s Proof along with Bizarre was an original founder of the group in 1990. In 1998 Proof rose to national attention and received The Sources’ 1999 Unsigned Hype Award and was in the running for the 1998 Blaze Battle. Other successes by Proof were collaborating with Dogmatic for the Promatic album, joining Eminem’s ‘Anger Management’ Tour, and appearing in Eminem’s biographical movie, “8 Mile,” as ‘Lil’ Tic.’ He also released a six-song EP, ‘Electric Koolaid-Acid Testing,’ the solo album, “Searching for Jerry Garcia,” in 2005, and the single, ‘Gurlz With Da Boom.” Also the recipient of the Inner city Entertainment’s Flava of the Year Award in 1998, he has also collaborated with several other artists.

Joseph Lowthian Hudson, 10/17/1846-7/5/1912

Department Store Magnate. More commonly known as J.L. Hudson, as in J.L. Hudson’s Department Store, he came to Detroit, Michigan in 1877, opening a men’s and boy’s clothing store in 1881. In 1891, he built an 8-story store in downtown Detroit, which, together with a 1907 addition was demolished in the 1920s. In 1911, he opened a store on Detroit’s main street, Woodward Ave., adding to it between 1925-28 with 16-stories, part of which extended into a 25-story tower. A 12-story addition was built in 1946, by which time the store had 2.2 million sq. ft. or 49 acres of floor space. After his death in 1912, his sister’s sons took over the store. Posthumously, the department stores become the nation’s 3rd-largest in 1927 behind R.H. Macy in New York and Marshall Field’s in Chicago.

Pervis Jackson, 5/17/1938-8/18/2008

R&B Singer. He was the bass singer and original member of The Spinners. In 1999 the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Pervis was perhaps best known for his famous solo part in “12:45” in “Games People Play (They Just Can’t Stop It)”. He continued to perform with The Spinners until his death.

James Jamerson, 1/29/1939-8/2/1983

Musician. He was an outstanding bass player regarded as the first virtuoso of the eclectic bass. In 1959, when Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in Detroit, Michigan, Jamerson became a founding member of Motown studio band known as the “Funk Brothers”. In 2000, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

James (Prophet) Jones, 1907-1971

Prominent national and local religious leader during the 1940s and 1950s. He was the first African American televangelist of Detroit and founder of the Church of Universal Triumph, Dominion of God, Inc.

Uriel Jones, 6/13/1934-3/23/2009

Musician. He was a versatile drummer and an original member of the “Funk Brothers” session band for Motown Records, 1960s to 1970s. He also toured with Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, and Tammi Terrell. In 2002, he received recognition in the documentary film “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” and performed with the surviving Funk Brothers. 

Edwin Henry ‘Twilight Ed’ Killian, 11/12/1876-7/18/1928

Major League Baseball Player. He made his major league debut on August 25, 1903, as a left handed pitcher for the Cleveland Naps. Acquired by Detroit in 1904, he won 23 games in his second year as a Tiger. Pitching in the dead-ball era, he was the hardest pitcher to homer against in major league history and allowed only nine homers in his career. He played his last game for the Tigers on July 15, 1910, with a career 1598 endings pitched 105-78 win lost record and a 2.38 earn run average.

Johnnie Mae Matthews, 12/31/1922-1/6/2002

Singer, Record Producer, Songwriter. As the founder of Northern Record Label, as well as its many subsidiaries, she was the first African American female to actively own and operate her own record label. Nicknamed the “God Mother of Detroit Soul”, she was a member of the vocal group “The Five Dapps” and was lead vocalist on “You’re So Unfaithful” (1957). It was in 1958 when she became the owner of her own record label “Northern Recording Company”. She went on to manage the “The Distants” who were later renamed “The Temptations”, Northern Recording Company later issued their debut single “Come On”. She also helped to develop the careers on David and Jimmy Ruffin. She worked with Motown founder Berry Gordy as well.

Edward Roy Patten, 8/27/1939-2/25/2005

Pop Singer. He was a member of Gladys Knight & the Pips, which was comprised of Knight; her brother, Merlald “Bubba” Knight; and their cousins William Guest and Patten. The group, whose hits included “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” won four Grammy’s and was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Patten, known for his high tenor voice, joined the group in 1959. He was also one of the founders of Crew Records, based in Detroit and Atlanta, and sang backup for the label’s recording artists.

Lawrence Payton, 3/2/1938-6/20/1997

R&B Singer. A Member of the musical group ‘The Four Tops.’ In 1990 they were inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.

David Ruffin, 1/18/1941-6/1/1991

R&B Singer, Lead for the famed Motown group the Temptations. 

Edward Tilden ‘Ed’ Siever, 4/2/1875-2/4/1920

Major League Baseball Player. A right-handed pitcher, he made his major league debut on April 26, 1901 for the Detroit Tigers in a 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bobby Steel Smith, 4/10/1936-9/16/2013

Singer. He was a founding member and lead vocalist with the music ensemble “The Spinners”.

Levi Stubbs, 6/6/1936-10/17/2008

Singer. He was the lead vocalist of the legendary musical Motown group The Four Tops.

George Washington Trendle, 7/4/1884-5/9/1972

TV producer. Creator of “The Lone Ranger,” “The Green Hornet,” “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon,” and other radio and TV dramas.

Earl Van Dyke, 7/8/1930-9/18/1992

Musician. He is most notable as the main keyboardist with Motown Records’ in-house band the “Funk Brothers” in the late 1960s and early 1970s

David Glenn “Pop” Winans, Sr., 4/20/1934-4/8/2009

Singer. Grammy nominated gospel singer and patriarch of the Grammy award winning Winans family. The family became known around the world for their gospel singing talents. The Winans singing group featuring the children of David Winans Sr. became a singing sensation in the 1980s.

Ronald W. Winans, 6/30/1956-6/17/2005

Gospel Singer. He was the oldest member of what was considered the first family of Contemporary Gospel music that was credited for propelling the medium to secular and mainstream acclaim. Ronald Winans sang on five Grammy-winning albums with his brothers Marvin, Carvin and Michael as the Winans. The group was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2001.


1.  Northup, A. Dale.  Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery.  Images of America.  2003.

2. Esparza, Santiago.  "Parks to Remain Private Even in Death". Detroit News.  


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