- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Judge Damon J. Keith
Judge Damon J. Keith
1922 - present

Judge Damon J. Keith was born in Detroit, Michigan, and has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit since 1977. Judge Keith previously served as Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He is a graduate of West Virginia State College, Howard University Law School and Wayne State University Law School.

Judge Keith has consistently stood as a courageous defender of the constitutional and civil rights of all people. In United States v. Sinclair, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Judge Keith’s landmark ruling prohibiting President Nixon and the federal government from engaging in warrantless wiretapping in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, Judge Keith stood up to President George W. Bush during the aftermath of 9/11. Writing for a unanimous United States Court of Appeals panel, Judge Keith declared “Democracies die behind closed doors,” and ruled it unlawful for the Bush administration to conduct deportation hearings in secret whenever the government asserted that the people involved might be linked to terrorism.

Judge Keith has vigorously enforced the nation’s civil rights laws, most notably in the areas of employment and education. In Stamps v. Detroit Edison Co., Judge Keith ruled the Detroit Edison Company had practiced systematic racial discrimination, resulting in fines against the company of $4 million and against the employee union of $250,000, and an order for the company to institute an aggressive affirmative action program. In Davis v. School District of Pontiac, Judge Keith found that the city had unlawfully built schools to coincide with segregated housing patterns. He ordered the implementation of city-wide busing to promote integration and to guarantee equal protection under the law for all children.

Judge Keith has received over forty honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the country and is the recipient of numerous awards, most notably, the NAACP’s highest award, the Spingarn Medal and the Trumpet Award. In 2000, Judge Keith’s career was profiled by Court TV as part of a program saluting "America’s Great Legal Minds".

Judge Keith was married for fifty-three years to the latewife, Dr. Rachel and they had three daughters. Judge Keith has received over forty honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the country.