Archival Document Sets

Judge Damon Keith: An Introduction

The honorable Judge Damon Keith was born on July 4, 1922 and passed away on April 28, 2019. His life and legacy stand as a testament to his hard work, dedication, excellence, and achievement. Judge Keith was a native Detroiter and worked tirelessly to enact systemic change by fighting for justice, democracy, and the greater good, often for those who were unprotected and underrepresented in Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State College, a law degree from Howard University Law School, and a master’s degree from Wayne State University Law School.

The Damon J. Keith Law Collection of African American Legal History was established in 1993 and was one of the first to specifically address the African American community's contributions to law. The Collection is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and providing resources pertaining to African American legal history, including the work of prominent African American lawyers, judges, and lawmakers, and others whose service to the community reflects a commitment to civil rights and social justice. The Collection contains primary source materials documenting the experience of African Americans and the law, both in Michigan and nationally. Upon the founding contribution of papers by the Honorable Damon J. Keith, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Keith Collection was firmly established. The Collection is a partnership between the Walter P. Reuther Library, a world-renowned archival repository, and the Wayne State University Law School, and is available for research by scholars, students and the general public.

In 2011, the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights opened at the Wayne State University Law School to assist new lawyers in following Judge Keith's legacy. Throughout his career, Judge Keith earned numerous honorary degrees, awards, and accolades. He gave countless speeches and attended many events in support of the fight for civil rights and justice in America. One of the most important things Judge Keith did during his lifetime was to demonstrate his desire to inspire, encourage, and motivate others through his work.