T. Milton Street Sr., a former state senator and brother of former Mayor John F. Street, died Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. He was 83.
His nephew, state Sen. Sharif Street, announced the death Monday morning.
“It is with sadness that we announce the passing of former Sen. T. Milton Street Sr., activist, legislator and politician,” his family said in an online statement. “Former Senator Street, first, as a community activist, then as a state legislator fought to make Philadelphia a better place.”
Street was born in Norristown. He was a youth leader in the Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist Church and attended Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, and Temple University.
Street oversaw the daily operations of Street Food Concessions, his family’s concession business, and founded “Notlim” (Milton spelled backwards), a service management company. He also served as assistant budget director of the Philadelphia Traffic Court; as a consultant to American Christian Institute; and as consultant and CEO of General Asphalt Paving Company and Philadelphia Airport Services.
The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus called him a tireless worker and a successful business owner and advocate.
“He came from humble beginnings and was an entrepreneur who worked hard to have a successful business and advocate for similar businesses, ultimately taking him to the state’s General Assembly,” the caucus said in a statement. “After his time in the state Senate, he built his businesses, working tirelessly and serving as a pillar in the community.”
Street was elected to the state House as a Democrat in 1978, representing the 181st District, and to the state Senate in 1980. In a move shocking at the time, Street then almost immediately switched party affiliations to Republican, which gave the GOP control of the Senate. He was rewarded with a committee chairmanship and a nicer office, according to his state Senate biography.
He also defied the Democratic machine when he unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Bill Gray in 1982. Street then lost his reelection as state senator in 1984 to Roxanne Jones. He also lost races for the state House in 1986 and 1988.
He resurfaced as a candidate in the 2007 mayoral race, from which he quickly withdrew to announce a run for City Council at–large in that same year.
Street’s residency was challenged in that 2007 Council election, but was ultimately allowed to remain on the ballot and lost the race. Undeterred by the string of defeats, Street launched another mayoral bid in 2011 to unseat incumbent Michael Nutter. Once dismissed as a nonviable candidate, he won 25% of the vote in that election — enough of the vote to convince him to once again run for mayor in 2015.
However, between mayoral campaigns, on Feb. 22, 2008, Street was convicted of three counts of failing to file tax returns, a misdemeanor, for years 2002, 2003 and 2004. He was acquitted on mail and wire fraud charges, and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, of which he served 26 months.
As a legislator, Street’s “public policies were decades before their time,” according to a tribute by his family.
“He was motivated to create a government that was more equitable and fair because unfair policies that prevented the poor from achieving the American dream inspired him to work toward this objective. Despite not identifying with any one political party, he worked to break down barriers and envisioned ways that the government could assist the common people by enacting change through policy,” the tribute said.
“He supported a number of socioeconomic causes, including the growth of gaming, funding for seniors through the lottery, and the legalization of marijuana as a means of educating the general public. He never stopped advocating for the underprivileged and hoped to end the violence that wracked our city.”
Democratic Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke said Street “spoke truth to power — forcefully — and he was never afraid to confront an injustice, whenever and wherever he found it. I learned a lot from him.”
Mayor Jim Kenney called Milton Street an activist and legislator who was passionate about improving the well-being of Philadelphians.
“He remained a steadfast fighter for the poor and dreamed of ending the violence which plagues our city,” Sharif Street said in a statement. “The family and friends thank all who have supported Sen. Street through the years and will continue to work to make Philadelphia a better place.”