Carolyn Jean Cheeks was born on June 25, 1945 in Detroit, Michigan. In 1972 she received a B.S. degree in education from Western Michigan University. Five years later she received an M.S. degree from the University of Michigan. After graduating Carolyn Cheeks taught Business Education in the Detroit Public Schools. She also married Bernard Kilpatrick.
In 1978 Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives, a position she held for eighteen years. While in the Michigan House she became the first African American woman to serve on its Appropriations Committee.
In 1996 Kilpatrick was elected to Congress from Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. There she became the first African American woman to serve on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. She is also the first African American member of Congress to sit on the United States Air Force Academy Board which oversees the program of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Congresswoman Kilpatrick is now serving in her sixth term. On December 6, 2006 she was unanimously elected Chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus. Her son, Kwame, was elected to fill her Michigan House seat in 1996. In 2001 he became at 30 the youngest Mayor of Detroit.