The death of Detroit native Damon Keith was announced on April 28 by the Wayne Law  Center.

“Damon J. Keith was a great man. The Wayne State community mourns his passing and pledges to honor his legacy through our work in the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights,” said President M. Roy Wilson in a statement.

The cause of death was not released in the statement.

Richard A. Beirschbach, dean of the school of law, said he knows his legacy will live on in the eyes of the Damon J. Keith scholars and all the students currently studying at the center.

“We’ve lost one of the greatest civil rights champions of our time,” he said. “Judge Damon J. Keith has been an unwavering voice for those who have been unjustly silenced.

“For some of our students, he is the reason they came to law school, and specifically to our law school. Because of Judge Keith, those students are out in the world changing it for the better.”

He served on the U.S. District court for the Eastern District of Michigan at the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and went on to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1977, becoming the sixth African American to be appointed to the federal court appeals.

Keith received his Master of Laws degree from Wayne State in 1956 and graduated from and the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights was opened in 2011 to “promote the educational, economic and political power of underrepresented communities in urban settings,” Wilson said.

“Words feel inadequate to describe the life of a man who changed the fabric of a nation and how much he meant to the Wayne Law community,” Bierschbach said. “He was an extraordinary person and a compass for courage and justice.”