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Crowds bid farewell to civil rights icon and Detroit federal judge Damon J. Keith

Life and legacy of civil rights crusader remembered

DETROIT – Large crowds stopped by the Charles H. Wright Museum to say goodbye to civil rights icon, and Detroit’s very own, Judge Damon Jerome Keith. 

Keith meant so much to our community, and the entire country.

It is an emotional day for many here in the city of Detroit, but also a day to reflect on a civil rights icon. 

There was a line of people waiting outside the museum to bid farewell to Keith. Many call him a civil rights leader, an American hero, and a fighter for justice. Those descriptions only scratch the surface of Keith’s legacy.

“Judge Damon Keith was one of my mentors,” said Edwin Harlin.

Others spoke to Local 4 about Keith's life and legacy. 

“I had to come out. He was a great man. A very common man, you wouldn’t really notice him in the crowd,” said Melvin Byrd.

So many people came to the public visitation just to thank Keith for his life's work. 

“I had to show my respect and say thank you,” said Lennette Williams.

Williams was the first one in line. “All I could think of was what he did for Ms. Parks and others and for the nation,” said Williams.

Keith, held many titles and did some remarkable things, not just here in Michigan but across the country. 

In 1967, Keith was named to the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan by President Lyndon Johnson.  In 1970, he ordered the bussing of students in Pontiac to integrate public schools.

A year later, he ruled against the Nixon administration and put an end to its use of warrantless wire tapping. 

Many waited for hours to see the moment the casket pulled up.  Democratic congresswoman Debbie Dingell was among those in the crowd. 

“Judge Keith was my friend for many decades. Keith and John were good friends and pioneers together. They did things. They were leaders. They just did what he thought was right,” said Dingell.

Keith's legacy will live on through his work. 

“His legacy is what he brought to the people, for the people. Fair, equitable, and all about justice. That was Judge Damon Keith,” said Harlin.

His funeral will be held at the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church on Monday at 10 a.m.

RELATED: Details announced for Judge Damon J. Keith's visitation, funeral services in Detroit

On Monday, ClickOnDetroit will provide live coverage of Keith's funeral with special programming, “Remembering Judge Damon Keith,” that will be streamed online and on-air. The special coverage begins at 10 a.m.

RELATED: Watch live coverage of Judge Damon J. Keith funeral service in Detroit on ClickOnDetroit Monday


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