Good People

UPDATED: Little Caesars founder paid Rosa Parks’ rent for over a decade until she died

The founder of the Little Caesars restaurant chain passed away this Friday. And while family and friends share fond memories of his life and legacy, a CNN affiliate in Detroit revealed something about the life of Mike Ilitch that speaks volumes about his character.

Update: 12:42 am, 2/16/17 — Another side to this story has emerged, namely from a piece by Aaron Foley for Black Life, Arts & Culture.

Foley writes:

“…Ilitch did a lot for Detroit, and yes, maybe we were just a little too quick in lionizing his accomplishments without acknowledging that he leaves behind a complex legacy.”

Did the pizza magnate help with the living expenses for the civil rights icon? Yes. For how long? Well, not as long as some news outlets are claiming – and, for that matter, not as much as a contribution as implied.

Read the full piece here.

Original story below:

The founder of the Little Caesars restaurant chain passed away this Friday. And while family and friends share fond memories of his life and legacy, a CNN affiliate in Detroit revealed something about the life of Mike Ilitch that speaks volumes about his character.

One of the most iconic figures of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks, had some charitable help from Ilitch after he discovered that she was robbed and assaulted in her Detroit home in 1994.

“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,” federal judge and Detroit resident Damon Keith told WXYZ.

After the robbery, Keith helped Parks find a new place to live. When Ilitch read about the story in the newspaper, he called Keith and offered to pay for Parks’ rent for as long as she needed. Without making a big deal of what he was doing, Ilitch paid Parks’ rent until she died in 2005.

From CNN:

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.

“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, according to CNN.

“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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