Mike Illitch, the owner of Little Caesars, passed away at the age of 87, on February 10, and with his passing has resurfaced the story of how he came to help out Rosa Parks live out the rest of her life in Detroit.
Illitch and Parks met when the latter’s house was broken into back in August 1994. The 81-year-old civil rights icon had sustained several injuries, and was also robbed. Upon learning about the incident Illitch, along with other Detroit residents, helped move Parks into a new apartment. But Illitch did not just stop there — he also paid her rent up until her death in 2005.
The news that the business owner had arranged to pay for Parks’ rent first appeared back in 2014, when a federal judge spoke with the Sports Business Journal.
“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,” judge Damon Keith said. “Mike Ilitch is totally committed to Detroit,” Keith continued. “He brought the Little Caesars corporate offices here. He saved the Fox Theatre. He built Comerica Park, and he kept the hockey and baseball teams thriving here when times were tough. But of all the incredible things he has done for the city, people should know what he did for Rosa Parks.”
In other Parks-related news, a musical based on activist is in the works. The play, titled Rosa, will chronicle Parks’ time as a seamstress up until the event’s that led to her becoming “the mother of the freedom movement.”
Rosa will be written by Victoria Gimby and Stuart Matthew Price and produced by UK-based international theatre production company United Theatrical.
Producer James Yeoburn said the following in a press release for the show.
“We have been passionate about telling Rosa’s story since meeting Victoria last year. Victoria and Stuart have captured in their work the rise of one of history’s most powerful women whose life was spent campaigning for equality not only for her race but for her gender and class. We are delighted to see how beautifully this translates for the stage. This is a human story about an everyday person investing fearlessly in what she felt was right and her contribution has never been more relevant. Rosa’s story is taught to all ages throughout the education systems both in the US and here in the UK. Her message remains strong and continues to empower our leaders of tomorrow.”