Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith

Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith


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The Honorable Damon J. Keith was appointed to the federal bench in 1967 and has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit since 1977, where he has been an eloquent defender of civil and constitutional rights and a vigorous enforcer of civil rights law. In Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith, authors Peter J. Hammer and Trevor W. Coleman present the first ever biography of native Detroiter Judge Keith, surveying his education, important influences, major cases, and professional and personal commitments. Along the way, the authors consult a host of Keith's notable friends and colleagues, including former White House deputy counsel John Dean, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and industrialist Edsel Ford II for this candid and comprehensive volume.

Hammer and Coleman trace Keith's early life, from his public school days in Detroit to his time serving in the segregated U.S. army and his law school years at Howard University at the dawn of the Civil Rights era. They reveal how Keith's passion for racial and social justice informed his career, as he became co-chairman of Michigan's first Civil Rights Commission and negotiated the politics of his appointment to the federal judiciary. The authors go on to detail Keith's most famous cases, including the Pontiac Busing and Hamtramck Housing cases, the 1977 Detroit Police affirmative action case, the so-called Keith Case (United States v. U.S. District Court), and the Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft case in 2002. They also trace Keith's personal commitment to mentoring young black lawyers, provide a candid look behind the scenes at the dynamics and politics of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and even discuss some of Keith's difficult relationships, for instance with the Detroit NAACP and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Judge Keith's forty-five years on the bench offer a unique viewpoint on a tumultuous era of American and legal history. Readers interested in Civil Rights-era law, politics, and personalities will appreciate the portrait of Keith's fortitude and conviction in Crusader for Justice.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814338452
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
Publication date: 11/30/2013
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 11.70(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Damon J. Keith was born in Detroit, Michigan, on July 4, 1922. He is a graduate of West Virginia State College
(B.A. 1943), Howard University Law School (J.D. 1949) and Wayne State University Law School (LL.M. 1956). In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Keith to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan,
where he ultimately served as chief judge. He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1977. As a member of the federal judiciary, Judge Keith has been a courageous defender of constitutional rights, giving real meaning to the promise of "equal justice under law." Judge Keith is the recipient of numerous awards, most notably, the NAACP's highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, and the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a member of the federal judiciary.

Trevor W. Coleman is a national award-winning journalist, who has been an editorial writer, and columnist for the Detroit Free Press. He was chief speechwriter for former Michigan governor Jennifer M. Granholm and director of communications for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University and father of two college students, Sydnie and Trevor II.

Mitch Albom is an internationally renowned and best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician. His books have collectively sold more than 35 million copies worldwide; have been published in forty-eight territories and in forty-four languages around the world; and have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed television movies.

Table of Contents

Foreword Xi

A Crusader for Justice xvii

Acknowledgments xix

1 Humble Roots: The Lawyer and the Janitor 3

2 The Early Education of Damon J. Keith 11

3 College Life: West Virginia State College 17

4 "The Finest Man I've Ever Known" 23

5 1943: War in the Streets/War Overseas 27

6 Howard University School of Law: The West Point of Civil Rights 36

7 Leaping the Bar 41

8 Rachel 47

9 Taking a Chance: Life as a Young Lawyer 55

10 A Room on the Second Floor: Rebuilding Detroit's NAACP 59

11 "Get Out on Your Own": How Damon Keith Became His Own Start-Up 67

Photo Insert 1

12 A Leader Emerges: From Jack Kennedy to Willie Horton 77

13 Detroit 1967: The Fire This Time 85

14 Approaching the Bench: The Long and Winding Politics of Becoming a Judge 97

15 Into the Maelstrom: Busing in Pontiac 111

16 Housing in Hamtramck and Discrimination at Detroit Edison 121

17 Taking on the Nixon White House: The Keith Case 137

Photo Insert 2

18 Affirmative Action in the Detroit Police Department 147

19 "Tell Him Thurgood's on the Line" 159

20 "Here, Boy, Park This Car" 169

21 Strange Bedfellows: Damon Keith and Clarence, Thomas 181

22 Swimming Upstream: Ideological and Political Shifts in the Courts 199

23 "Democracies Die Behind Closed Doors" 207

24 The Keith Law Clerk Family 221

Photo Insert 3

25 Friends along the Way: From Rosa to Russia 231

26 "I Don't Work on Your Plantation!": Speaking Out, Standing Strong 247

27 Crusader for Justice: Into the Sunset 267

A Note on Sources 279

Index 291

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