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Thursday, 20 October, 2011 9:04 PM

The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights opens at the Wayne State University Law School

Photo by Lars Hjelmroth, Rolco Sports Network

Judge Damon J. Keith seeks out baseball legend Willie Horton at the standing-room-only reception for the opening of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at the Wayne State Law School in Detroit.

 

by Raymond Rolak
AmericaJR.com Web Team

 

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DETROIT-- The Dean at the Wayne State University Law School, Robert Ackerman, was precise and eloquent acting as emcee and speaking the praises of Judge Damon J. Keith. In fact, everybody on the dais had extraordinary praise for the guest of honor.

From Wayne State President, Alan Gilmour to Mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, every next anecdote spoken about Judge Keith seemed more pleasing to crowded audience. The packed room was on hand for the dedication and ribbon-cutting of the opening of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at the WSU Law School.

Edsel Ford II and wife Cynthia along with philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman were singled out for their special generosity to the project. Also highlighted for special support were the Henry Ford II Fund, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the DTE Foundation, and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

WSU President Gilmour had the audience laughing with an amusing recollection regarding technology glitches. His remarks regarding what the Keith Center will mean for Detroit and WSU on an international stage were well received.

Gilmour’s address told the story. He started with, “We are here to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. This is a momentous day for Wayne State University and Wayne Law. Because today we honor the life and work of the Honorable Damon J. Keith, whose commitment to social justice is rooted in his experience, and evident in his actions. Judge Keith is a giant in the history of civil rights. It seems appropriate that he was born on July 4th, a day that symbolizes freedom for all Americans. Judge Keith dedicated his life to making the dream of freedom a reality—for all Americans. For this we must all be thankful.”

Gilmour added, “The Center will be a local and national source for both scholarship and remembrance. It will inspire future generations to learn from our history, and create a brighter future. It will highlight Wayne Law as the leading institution for the study of civil rights and constitutional law. It will enable the school to create new standards intraining lawyers who advocate for individual rights. Who possess a strong social conscience and heightened sensitivity to the needs of an increasingly diverse public?”

The event had that wonderful feel of a large family gathering. The aura in the auditorium was electric when Judge Keith made special note to highlight his family, Willie Horton and Mitch Albom.

Judge Keith has been a Federal jurist since 1967. He has counseled United States Presidents and citizens alike, all with his noted humanism and grace. Keith made special and humorous notations about the giving timeline for the project again stressing the generosity of Taubman.

Keith, a Detroit native son, has a special bond with Horton. As a young attorney, Keith became the guardian for the outstanding baseball player, when Horton signed a big bonus in 1961. Near that time frame, the parents of Horton were killed in an auto accident. Their special relationship is a chronicle of triumph and an extraordinary chapter of Detroit history.

The two-story building will feature classrooms, conference rooms, student space and a lecture hall. A special interactive exhibit will be featured, Marching Toward Justice: The History of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Keith Center will also be home to a special lecture series each year. The first one featured world personality and humanitarian Harry Belafonte.

That family feel was highlighted at the conclusion of the ceremony with the solo of WSU Voice Instructor, Emery Stephens’ rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

Judge Keith has received more than 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the country. His Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University states, Avatar of independence, champion of equal justice under law, a just and humane jurist who has shared and shaped the action and passion of his time.

“I hope the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil rights serves as a beacon for civil rights, and that it might stand as a testament to the achievements of those who marched, bled, died, and filed suit so that all Americans might be treated equally under the law. I also hope that it serves as an incubator of future civil rights advocates and a space for relevant academic scholarship.”
-Judge Damon J. Keith

For more information on the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, visit http://keithcenter.wayne.edu/.

 

Rendering courtesy of WSU Law

A rendering of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights building at the Wayne State University Law School.

 

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