Horace L. Sheffield, Jr. was an important Detroit labor and civil rights activist. During his career as a factory worker, labor and civil rights activist, political leader and journalist, he developed a local and national reputation as a dedicated fighter for human rights.
Sheffield was born in Vienna, Georgia in 1916, and moved with his family to Detroit two years later. He was educated in the Detroit Public Schools and attended the Detroit Institute of Technology, Wayne State University and the University of California at Los Angeles
He became active in the United Auto Workers' (UAW) struggle to organize Ford autoworkers in 1941 and was a union official in UAW Local 600. In that same year, he successfully fought for the establishment of the UAW Inter-Racial Committee. Designed to address problems of discrimination, it preceded the union's Civil Rights Department. As a UAW staff member, he monitored equal employment opportunities at the Rouge plant where he worked beginning in 1934. In 1943 he became the first executive secretary of the Michigan State CIO Civil Rights Committee. He retired from the UAW in 1981 after serving as administrative assistant to UAW President Douglas Fraser.
Other positions Sheffield held included the presidency of the Detroit Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, founder of the Trade Union Leadership Council (TCLU), and a director of the Detroit Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Sheffield became a columnist for the Detroit News and the Michigan Chronicle, moderated the weekly talk show, Focus Detroit, on the local CBS outlet, WJBK-TV and was moderator and producer of the weekly radio program, The Freedom Forum, for almost 14 years.
He received prestigious honorary doctorate degrees from Wayne State University, Marygrove College, and the University of Michigan.
Horace Sheffield Jr. participated in the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom Led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and organized by C.L. Franklin, the Walk to Freedom was the largest civil rights march at the time with 125,000 people attending, 6/23/1963.