Dennis Archer was born in Detroit but moved at an early age with his family and received his public school education in Cassopolis, Mi. After graduating from Western Michigan University in 1965, he taught learning disabled students in the Detroit Public Schools, 1965-1970. During this time, Archer earned a JD from Detroit College of Law in 1970.
After earning his law degree, he worked as a trial lawyer and served as associate professor of the Detroit College of Law, and as an adjunct professor of law at Wayne State University Law School. In 1985, Governor James Blanchard appointed Archer as an associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
In 1993 Archer waged a successful campaign to become the mayor of Detroit following the retirement of Coleman Young. Under his leadership, Detroit saw improvements in downtown development, safer streets, improved relations with the suburbs, as well as the acquisition of a federal empowerment zone and the relocation of major companies into downtown Detroit. He served as Detroit's mayor, 1994-2000. Following his tenure as Detroit's mayor, he was elected chairman of Dickinson Wright PLLC, a Detroit-based law firm. In 2002 he was elected to serve as president of the American Bar Association(2003-2004) the first African American to hold that position.