Statement on the passing of Judge Damon J. Keith

Statement from President M. Roy Wilson

It's a sad day. Judge Damon Jerome Keith passed away earlier today, and we are all mourning the loss of this outstanding civil rights pioneer, federal judge and great friend of Wayne State. I had the honor of being sworn in as the 12th president of Wayne State University by Judge Keith, but it meant even more to me to have met the man. At my swearing in ceremony Judge Keith said, "For Wayne State to be great, it has to be good." I have used those apt words as my guiding light in the leadership of Wayne State.

A quick litany of his accomplishments wouldn't adequately tell the story of this great man, who served 10 U.S. presidents and led from the bench efforts to racially desegregate schools, at a time when there was overwhelming opposition to such a move. His bravery and compassion marked every decision he made in his position as a federal judge, and we are all grateful for the momentous change he affected in the national social conscience.

Judge Keith received his master of laws from Wayne State in 1956 and remained committed to his alma mater throughout the rest of his life. We opened the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights on our campus in 2011 to promote the educational, economic and political power of underrepresented communities in urban settings. Judge Keith was deeply committed to civil rights for all people, and the Center upholds his values in everything it does.

Greatness is not randomly conferred on people. It comes from a place in the heart and the soul that defies easy explanation. Damon J. Keith was a great man. The Wayne State community mourns his passing and pledges to honor his legacy through our work in the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, and by striving to prepare the next generation of leaders to carry his work forward.

Contact: Theodore Montgomery,

Statement from Dean Richard A. Bierschbach

We've lost one of the greatest civil rights champions of our time. For more than 50 years, Judge Damon J. Keith has been an unwavering voice for those who have been unjustly silenced. As dean of Wayne State University Law School, proud home to the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, I know that his legacy will live on in the eyes and hearts of our Damon J. Keith Scholars and every student who learns the law in the center that bears his name.

Judge Keith was the first member of his family to earn a college degree and went on to earn his master of laws from Wayne Law in 1956. For some of our students, he is the reason they came to law school, and specifically to our law school. Because of Judge Keith, those students are out in the world changing it for the better.

Words feel inadequate to describe the life of a man who changed the fabric of a nation and how much he meant to the Wayne Law community - he was an extraordinary person and a compass for courage and justice, but that does not even begin to capture the full measure of his character or the impact he had and will continue to have on all of us.

Contact: Kaylee Place,

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