Former North Minneapolis legislator the Rev. Randolph "Randy" Staten impacted Minnesota as a whole. He was the first African American legislator from the city of Minneapolis representing House District 57B (now 59B). Staten served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1981 to 1987.
Staten, 76, died May 29, 2020 in Charlotte, NC. Funeral services were Thursday June 11 in Charlotte and a Minneapolis memorial service was held June 13 at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.
Bill English and John Jamison discussed Staten’s legendary leadership and service in a “Conversations with Al McFarlane” webcast last week.
English, a retired corporate executive and active civic leader organized a number of community empowerment initiatives in partnership with Staten and others.
"Randy Staten came from North Carolina to play football at the University of Minnesota," English said.
Staten went on to play with the New York Giants before injuries ended his professional football career.
Staten, who majored in Speech and Advanced Communications at the University, came back to Minnesota and pursued a career in business and politics.
"He came back to Minnesota and became an entrepreneur," English said. Staten owned “Staten Liquors, a business which originally opened as Carl Eller Liquors, in the Plymouth Avenue Shopping Center, the building which in recent years was repurposed as the University Outreach and Engagement Center (UROC).”
While he was the first Black legislator from Minneapolis, English said Staten joined two other Black men in the Minnesota Legislature.
He joined Ray Pleasant who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1973 to 1980 as an Independent Republican member, representing district 39B. Pleasant was the second African-American to be elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, and the first since the election of John Francis Wheaton in 1899. Veterinarian Dr. Robert Lewis, a DFLer from St. Louis Park, the first Black state senator who served from 1973-79 representing Senate District 41, also helped pave the way for Staten’s groundbreaking political career.
English said that Staten undertook the battle of seeking elective office with the help of many people including a brilliant political strategist, his wife, Attorney Marcia Bland Staten, who helped organize the successful campaign that took the seat from incumbent Jim Casserly by overwhelming numbers.
"Randy, an astute politician, spokesperson, and brilliant man, went to the Minnesota Legislature, and within his first year he introduced a bill to disinvest Minnesota pension funds and other resources from any company doing business in apartheid South Africa," English said.
The move was controversial at the time, but with the help of Arne Carlson, a republican governor, they managed to get it through.
English also said that Staten was the architect of the Family Heritage Act. The act stated that African American children who were up for removal from their home by the court for child protection reasons, would be placed with relatives rather than white people who used the foster care system as an income generator.
English credited Staten as one of the top rookie legislators of the country the year he became a legislator. He noted that after his first two years, he won a second term.
"Randy and I started the Coalition of Black Churches/African American Leadership Summit." They decided not to become a 5013c because they wanted to take on the political structure compromises that govern most non-profit organizations. Out of that coalition came the Saint Paul African American Leadership Council and the African American Leadership Forum, he said.
Staten and English stayed in touch, and English talked to Staten two days before Staten died. They discussed family.
"He was a happy man because he had his first grandchild (a girl),” he said.
English said he was stunned when he heard about Staten's passing.
English helped organize the Minneapolis memorial service but was self-quarantined while awaiting COVID-19 test results (with negative results) and was unable to attend the service, but noted that leaders throughout the area spoke highly of Staten and his contributions to the state.
"We will miss him. We will miss his leadership. We will miss his brilliance. And we will miss his contribution to Minnesota," English said.
John Jamison, Board Chair of Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC), said he knew Staten as a clergy leader.
"I knew that early on, he was definitely an accomplished politician. He had a way about him that was polished. He was also well-spoken and was always in the community working on something," Jamison said.
"There were certain people we'd see in our neighborhood all of the time, and they were always out working," Jamison said.
Staten was one of those people, Jamison said.