Dennis Archer: Keith a community improvement champion

Dennis W. Archer

I met Judge Damon J. Keith 50 years ago in the summer of 1967 while clerking in his firm, Keith, Conyers, Anderson, Brown and Wahls, when I was in night school at the Detroit College of Law.

No one anticipated the rebellion in Detroit that summer in which 43 people were killed and 7,200 people arrested. Judge Keith represented those arrested and held on Belle Isle. I saw firsthand how Judge Keith brought to life the principles I had only read about in law school.

... From serving as president of the Wolverine, National Bar, State Bar of Michigan, and the American Bar Association, I can attest to Judge Keith’s outstanding reputation.

In private meetings, I have watched him encourage community, union, civic, city, regional and state leaders to overlook their differences to improve our community. I’ve seen firsthand his deep respect for Rosa Parks, and I’ve observed him encourage African Americans to self-fund a deficit to return the Charles Wright Museum of African American History to solid financial ground.

I have also met and worked with some of his brilliant and talented law clerks.

I regret that he lost his wife of 53 years, Dr. Rachel Boone Keith, but am thankful their daughters, Cecile, Debbie, Gilda and families have been there for him.

Finally, I could not have had a better mentor and friend than Judge Keith, whose advice and counsel I still seek.

Dennis W. Archer, chairman and CEO of a law firm in his name, served as mayor of Detroit, 1994-2001.