Former US Judge Damon J Keith, a grandson of slaves and icon in civil rights movement died in Detroit at the age of 96. He was born in 1922. He even being a grandson of enslaved people, later became sixth African American in U.S. history to serve on federal court of appeals.
He never retired and died incumbent in office.
He served for more than 50 years in federal courts, and even at age of 94 he heard cases about four times in one year at 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals (or circuit courts are intermediate appellate courts of US federal court system) in Cincinnati, Ohio and issued dissent in voting rights case.
During his time as judge he made series of landmark decisions that changed social and legal landscape of US. Some of them are-
He rejected government’s claim of having authority to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant on anyone it considered as national security threat.
Stopping Illegal Government Wiretaps: As a federal judge he gave judgement in warrantless wiretapping case against Richard Nixon administration which was in middle of social turmoil over Vietnam War, later sued Keith personally in famous “the Keith case”
Secret Deportation Hearings: One year after 9/11 attacks, while serving on federal court of appeals, he gave judgement against Bush administrations conducting deportation hearings of terrorism suspects in secret using blanket national security justification, in which he coined iconic phrase “democracies die behind closed doors”