Federal judge and civil rights activist Damon J. Keith died Sunday at 96.
The grandson of slaves, Keith served in the army during World War II before the army desegregated in 1948.
After the war, Keith studied law at Howard University. He was appointed to the Federal District Court in Michigan in 1967 and elevated to the Sixth Circuit 10 years later. On the Sixth Circuit Keith famously wrote the unanimous decision in United States v. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which upheld Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure restrictions on domestic surveillance. That case is known today as the Keith Case. Keith also authored the opinion desegregating schools in Pontiac, Michigan. Race played a central role in Keith’s career. He said in a 2015 interview, “There’s not a day in my life in some way large or small, I’m not reminded of the fact that I’m black.”
Keith never retired and died in office after over 50 years of federal judicial service.