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The founder of Little Caesars discreetly paid Rosa Parks' rent for years

The Week logo The Week 2/16/2017 Catherine Garcia
Mike Ilitch. © Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Mike Ilitch.

Mike Ilitch was known for being the founder of Little Caesars and owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, but he quietly made a difference in the life of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Ilitch died last week at age 87, and in several articles eulogizing him, it was noted that he paid Parks' rent so she could move to a safer neighborhood. Parks, a native of Alabama, moved to Detroit not long after she famously refused to get up from her seat on a bus in 1955. In 1994, she was robbed and assaulted in her central Detroit home, and when Ilitch read an account of the crime, he notified mutual friends and let them know he was going to cover her rent for as long as necessary.

Parks, then 81, moved to a safe apartment building, where she lived until her death in 2005. Their friend, Judge Damon Keith, said Ilitch was always doing kind things for others. "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," he told The Sports Business Daily in 2014.

In this Oct. 28, 1986 file photo, Rosa Parks is shown at Ellis Island in New York. © AP Photo, File In this Oct. 28, 1986 file photo, Rosa Parks is shown at Ellis Island in New York.
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