U.S. Sixth Circuit Appeals Judge Damon Keith with Juanita Moore, CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Soul & Spirit Humanitarian Award recipient, during the judge's 27th Annual Soul Food luncheon on Wednesday. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
Detroit — Hundreds of dignitaries packed a room at Detroit’s Federal Courthouse Wednesday to honor Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History President and CEO Juanita Moore at U.S. Sixth Circuit Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith’s 27th annual Soul Food luncheon.
Guests included Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, as well as congressmen, lawyers, university presidents and others from across the city. Many of Keith’s former law clerks flew in from across the country to honor Moore — and Keith.
“It’s hard for me to even believe I’m here,” Duggan told the crowd. As a law student, he said, “Damon Keith was my hero.”
“You can imagine the honor for me to have the man I grew up looking up to swear me in,” he said.
Moore was honored with the Soul & Spirit Humanitarian Award, which has previously been awarded to individuals such as Aretha Franklin, Coleman Young, Willie Horton and Dennis Archer.
The 2006 winner, George Jackson, presented Moore with the award.
“This is one of the highest honors of our careers,” he said.
Moore said she was “truly honored” and thanked Keith.
“The one thing I know about Judge Keith is his humanity,” she said. “It always makes people feel so special all the time.”
Moore took over the Wright Museum in 2006, shortly after Keith led an emergency campaign to raise $1 million to keep the nation's largest African-American history museum from sliding into bankruptcy. Despite that infusion, Keith notes that Moore had no easy path — steering the museum through the 2008 economic crisis and the collapse in corporate funding for cultural nonprofits that followed.
Keith ended the program by acknowledging many in the audience, and showing praise for Moore and her work at the museum.
“The Charles H. Wright museum is a great place and I love it very much,” he said.
Michael Hodges contributed.