Rachel L. McDuffie: Damon Keith an inspiration
A few years ago, I was a prospective law student and Judge Damon J. Keith seemed like a giant. A legend. Someone I’d strive to emulate, but couldn’t imagine ever comparing myself to. Still, I was encouraged to learn of things we had in common: I, too, am a product of Detroit Public Schools and an HBCU — shorthand for historically black colleges and universities.
Although I began my career in health and social services, I applied to law school to address social injustice. I was determined to become part of the solution. I read “Crusader for Justice” and found encouragement in Judge Keith’s similar desire at a similar point in his life.
To quote the book, “(h)e had to get to the very stain in the fabric, to identify places where the Constitution was quoted but not adhered to, and to change them.” After learning of the judge’s landmark decisions — and the prejudices he faced well into his career — I felt empowered, yet humbled by the responsibility of becoming an advocate in his mold.
I was thrilled to enroll in Wayne State University Law School and receive a scholarship created to honor Judge Keith’s legacy. I hope that generations of fellow “DJK Scholars” continue to be inspired like I have been, to turn our potential into power. Judge Keith’s courage, integrity, and character are worthy of every accolade. But each celebration reminds me that he didn’t enter this field to be exalted. He is an example — one that I strive to follow.
Rachel L. McDuffie
Wayne Law student and Damon J. Keith scholar