Estate of prominent federal judge leaves $100,000 to school
Institute, W. Va — The estate of prominent Judge Damon J. Keith, who was the grandson of slaves and a figure in the civil rights movement, made a $100,000 bequest to a scholarship fund in his name, West Virginia State University announced Wednesday.
Keith, who was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps, died in April in Detroit at 96. He spent more than 50 years on the federal bench. Before his death, he still heard cases about four times a year at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
In the 1971 wiretapping case against Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell, Keith said they couldn’t engage in the warrantless wiretapping of three people suspected of conspiring to destroy government property. The decision was affirmed by the appellate court, and the Nixon administration appealed and sued Keith personally. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the judge prevailed in what became known as “the Keith case.”
He was a 1943 graduate of what was then West Virginia State College and went on to graduate from Howard University Law School in 1949 and Wayne State University Law School in 1956.
“Our father, Judge Damon J. Keith, would frequently say, ‘I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t gone to West Virginia State,’” Keith’s daughter, Cecile Keith Brown, said in a news release from the school.