As a member of the federal judiciary, Judge Damon J. Keith has consistently stood as a courageous defender of the constitutional and civil rights of all people. Keith was born on July 4, 1922 in Detroit Michigan. He was the youngest of six children born to Annie and Perry Alexander Keith and the first to attend college. Graduating from West Virginia State College in 1943 he was then drafted into the military. While serving in the segregated army Keith witnessed many disheartening acts of discrimination which strengthened his conviction to the cause of civil rights. Keith graduated from Howard University Law School in 1949 which launched the start of his fight towards an equal civilization.
After graduating from law school and passing his bar exam, Keith accomplished many great feats in his career. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Keith to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, where he served as chief judge from 1975 to 1977 before President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 1993 an archival resource devoted to recognizing African American Lawyers throughout history was constructed and named in his honor at Wayne State University. Keith has received many prestigious awards from varying associations including, but not limited to the NAACP, ABA, Detroit Urban League and so on. Judge Keith has also received over forty honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the country.
Keith’s most recognizable cases were: United States v. Sinclair (1971), where Keith famously ruled that Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell had to disclose the transcripts of illegal wiretaps that Mitchell had authorized without first obtaining a search warrant. And the other being United States v. U.S. District Court (1972), commonly known as “The Keith Case” This case contributed in 1978 to president Jimmy Carter signing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The decision is commemorated as a “Michigan Legal Milestone” called “the Uninvited Ear” and erected by the State Bar of Michigan.
Judge Keith has been known as a father figure and helpful mentor to many rising young law students as well as some of the top lawyers in the U.S. Many well known lawyers and political figures have worked and learned under Keith. He has shown to be a strong and prominent figure in not only the African American community but has had a major impact on the entire United States justice system for the good of the nation.
Written by Annie Fox
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