West Virginia State University to Conduct Wreath Laying Ceremony In Honor of Judge Damon J. Keith

Contact: Jack Bailey
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May 8, 2019
West Virginia State University to Conduct Wreath Laying Ceremony
In Honor of Judge Damon J. Keith

INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State University (WVSU) will conduct a wreath laying ceremony on Friday, May 10, at 11 a.m. in honor of U.S. District Court Judge and WVSU alumnus Damon J. Keith who passed away Sunday, April 28, in Detroit, Michigan.

The ceremony will take place in front of the Judge Damon J. Keith Scholars Hall, the residence hall on campus named in the Judge’s honor, and will be led by WVSU President Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins and First Lady Toinette Jenkins. The ceremony is open to the public.

“Throughout his career, Judge Keith was an unwavering champion of civil rights and embodied the true essence of a West Virginia State University graduate,” President Jenkins said. “This ceremony will give members of the State family a chance to join together and reflect on the remarkable career and accomplishments of a man who’s among the most accomplished legal minds our nation has known.”

Keith graduated from what was then West Virginia State College in 1943 and would go on to graduate from the Howard University Law School in 1949 and the Wayne State University Law School in 1956. Keith served more than five decades on the federal bench first as a U.S. District Court judge and later on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As a member of the federal judiciary, Keith stood as a courageous defender of the constitutional and civil rights of all people. In United States v. Sinclair, commonly referred to as “the Keith Decision,” the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Judge Keith's landmark ruling prohibiting President Richard Nixon and the federal government from engaging in warrantless wiretapping in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

More recently, in Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, 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.

A public visitation for Judge Keith will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 11 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. May 13 at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multi-generational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service, and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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