Mike Ilitch may have been best known as the founder of pizza chain Little Caesars; he was also the owner of the Detroit Tigers MLB and Red Wings NHL teams, as well as the unlikely benefactor of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Parks was best known as the iconic civil rights activist who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, and Ilitch has made a name for himself in Detroit as a philanthropist and advocate for residents.
Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch Secretly Paid for Rosa Parks' Home for YEARS https://t.co/zqQW7LAdBf— A.C. Spollen (@ACSpollen) February 16, 2017
As CNN reports, Rosa Parks would eventually settle down in Detroit, but was attacked and assaulted inside her home in 1994 when she was 81-years-old. That’s when the Little Caesars owner, who passed away last Friday at the age of 87, stepped in to help. In the aftermath of her senseless attack, federal judge and civil rights activist Damon Keith took on the task of finding Parks a safer home in the City of Detroit, Keith himself being a native.
When Little Caesars founder Ilitch heard about what had happened to the elderly Rosa Parks and what Keith was doing to help her, he reportedly called up the federal judge and vowed to pay Parks’ rent in perpetuity. Without saying a word, the Little Caesars founder cut a check to the Riverfront Apartments to get Parks settled into her new, more secure Detroit home.
Mike Ilitch never went public with his good works, never asked for attention for making sure that arguably the most famous civil rights icon in modern history had a safe, secure roof over her head. In fact, as WXYZ 7 reports, it was Ilitch pal and former federal judge Damon Keith who spilled the beans on the act of charity, which continued up until Rosa Parks’ death in 2005.
In a Sports Business Daily article published in 2014, Damon Keith told the world of the Little Caesars founder’s good works, even providing a copy of a $2,000 check written from Little Caesars Enterprises to Riverfront Apartments. That check was dated November of 1994.
While Little Caesars founder Ilitch never sought any kind of recognition or even public awareness of his help for Rosa Parks, Keith claimed that he felt as though it was a representation of all of the good works Ilitch had done for Detroit and its people over the 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.”
@CNN A very nice thing to do. I love the fact that he took absolutely no credit for it. As it should be.— dddavid (@dddavidsGhosts) February 16, 2017
@theGrio It's not the size of the gesture but the fact that he did it at all was cool who raised y'all— ????️ackpage Blood ???? (@xlrdsvn) February 15, 2017
@FoxNews Nice to see an uplifting story make a headline for a change these days.— CatSSS (@cstpnyc) February 16, 2017
@wagatwe Makes me feel even better about all the Crazy Bread I've eaten over the years!— SAVE MEDICARE (@TravisSMcClain) February 16, 2017
In addition to his sports and business endeavors in Detroit, which included setting up within the city the headquarters of the wildly successful Little Caesars Enterprises, Ilitch and his wife have been widely credited with helping reform the impoverished Michigan city. Some have even said that Ilitch and his wife, with their good works and conscientious business decisions, helped “usher in a new era” for the former “Rock City.”
“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. 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.”
The involvement of the Little Caesars founder in support of civil rights pioneer Rosa Park’s final years of life has once again been thrust into the spotlight due to the tragic death of Mike Ilitch on February 10. That’s when Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley took to social media to share a link discussing the Little Caesars founders quiet charity.
According to the Lieutenant Governor, his post was intended to draw attention to who the Little Ceasars founder was at his core.
“It will give you a sense of the kind of man Mike Ilitch was.”
At this time, no official cause of death for Mike Ilitch has been released. The Little Caesars founder, who quietly paid the rent of civil rights icon Rosa Parks for over a decade, is survived by his wife Marian, seven children, and 22 grandchildren.
[Featured Image by Paul Sancya/AP Images]