Little Caesars founder quietly paid Rosa Parks’ rent for years

The founder of the Little Caesars pizza franchise helped iconic civil rights figure Rosa Parks during her time of need, quietly paying the rent for her apartment in downtown Detroit for more than a decade, WXYZ reported.

The generosity of Mike Ilitch, who also owned the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings franchises, came to light in an article published in Sports Business Daily in 2014. Federal judge Damon Keith repeated the story for WXYZ after Ilitch’s death last Friday at the age of 87. In 2014, Keith, a Federal Court of Appeals judge for nearly 50 years, displayed a check for $2,000, dated Nov. 1, 1994, from Little Caesars Enterprises to Riverfront Apartments.

"They don't go around saying it, but I want to, at this point, let them know, how much the Ilitches not only meant to the city, but they meant so much for Rosa Parks, who was the mother of the civil rights movement," Keith told WXYZ.

In December 1955, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake's order to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white passenger. She was arrested for civil disobedience, but the ensuing bus boycott by blacks was a key moment in the civil rights movement.

Parks was fired from her job as a seamstress in a Montgomery department store and moved to Detroit. In 1994, she was robbed and assaulted in her home when she was 81.

Keith called real estate developer Alfred Taubman, the owner of Riverfront Apartments, about finding a safer home for Parks, Sports Business Daily reported. Ilitch read the story and called Keith, offering to pay Parks’ housing indefinitely, WXYZ reported. He continued to pay for the apartment until Parks died at age 92 on Oct. 24, 2005.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley posted a link to the original story on Facebook, writing that it “will give you a sense of the kind of man Mike Ilitch was.”

"You'll never discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Mike and (his wife) Marian had the courage to lose sight of the shore and discover new oceans," Keith told WXYZ. "They kept pushing Detroit, and had it not been for them, I am saying, Detroit would not be in the renaissance that they're in now."

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Little Caesars founder quietly paid Rosa Parks' rent for years

Those who knew Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesars founder and Detroit Tigers owner who died last Friday, have spent the past few days fondly remembering his impact on friends, on Detroit residents, and on the sports community.

Ilitch also had an impact on the daily life of one of the most iconic figures from the civil rights movement.
For more than a decade, Ilitch had quietly paid for Rosa Parks' apartment in downtown Detroit, according to CNN affiliate WXYZ.

That story came to light thanks to Damon Keith, a Detroit native and federal judge.

"They don't go around saying it, but I want to, at this point, let them know, how much the Ilitches not only meant to the city, but they meant so much for Rosa Parks, who was the mother of the civil rights movement," Keith told WXYZ.

Shortly after her famed defiance of segregation sparked the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, Parks moved to Detroit and became an important presence in the city for years afterward.

But in 1994, Parks was robbed and assaulted in her home at the age of 81.

Keith, himself an important legal figure in the civil rights movement, worked to find Parks a new, safer apartment at the Riverfront Apartments in Detroit, according to the Sports Business Daily.

Ilitch read the story in the newspaper and called Keith, offering to pay for Parks' housing indefinitely. With no fanfare, Ilitch continued paying for the apartment until Parks died in 2005, Keith said.

The entire episode was made public in 2014 in a story from Sports Business Daily. Keith even showed the reporter a copy of a 1994 check for $2,000 from Little Caesars Enterprises to Riverfront Apartments.

It has taken on a new life in light of Ilitch's death on Friday at the age of 87.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley posted on Facebook a link to an article on the subject on Friday. "It will give you a sense of the kind of man Mike Ilitch was," he wrote.

The Parks' donation further shows Ilitch's commitment to Detroit, where he was born and raised. Ilitch established Little Caesars headquarters there, owned the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, and helped usher in a new era for the city, Keith told WXYZ.

"You'll never discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Mike and (his wife) Marian had the courage to lose sight of the shore and discover new oceans," Keith said.

"They kept pushing Detroit, and had it not been for them, I am saying, Detroit would not be in the renaissance that they're in now."


Mike Ilitch did the kindest thing imaginable for Rosa Parks

As the world continues mourning former Detroit Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who died on Feb. 11 at age 87, we’re being reminded of just how far his kindness and goodwill extended.

In particular, there’s a story that’s resurfaced that tells of the lengths Ilitch went to in assisting Rosa Parks, an American civil rights activist who had fallen on hard times after being robbed and assaulted in her central Detroit home in August of 1994.

According to the story originally reported in the Sports Business Journal back in 2014, and brought back to the forefront by Michigan lieutenant-governor Brian Calley, Ilitch began paying the entirety of Ms. Parks’ rent immediately following the incident, which allowed her to move into a safer apartment complex. He continued this remarkable deed until her death in 2005.

Here’s an excerpt from the original story:

In his chambers in Detroit, Judge Damon Keith holds a copy of a check in his hand and has a story to tell. It’s about the time Mike Ilitch came to the aid of Rosa Parks, whose legendary defiance of segregation in 1955 led to the black civil rights movement.

“It’s for $2,000, dated November the first, 1994. It’s from Little Caesars Enterprises to Riverfront Apartments, and I know it was just one of many,” said Keith, 91, who has been a U.S. Court of Appeals judge in Detroit for the last 46 years. “It’s important that people know what Mr. Mike Ilitch did for Ms. Rosa Parks because it’s symbolic of what he has always done for the people of our city.”

Parks was at the forefront of the modern civil rights movement after refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955. It’s one of the most iconic and important moments in United States history, as it paved the way for minorities to feel comfortable and confident standing up for their rights.

In the eyes of many, Ms. Parks was considered a hero and a trailblazer. Ilitch never sought credit or commendation for coming to her aid though. He simply looked out for those around him and in particular those in the Detroit community that meant so much to him. In fact, the story notes this is just one instance that exemplified Ilitch’s kindness. He helped many others along the way, with little to no fanfare.

It’s tough to imagine, but it’s possible Ilitch was even more kind-hearted than the flood of remembrances and honors have suggested these past few days. It’s important that we share them now so that his legacy as an icon and a true champion of the people can be celebrated.

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