I read about this a few years ago, but it was a brief thing that didn’t make a ton of waves, mostly because the Tigers and their late owner Mike Ilitch weren’t interested in making a big deal out of it.
In the wake of Ilitch’s death, however, we’re reminded that he paid the rent of civil rights icon Rosa Parks for several years. In 1994 Parks’ home was broken into and she was assaulted. In the wake of that awfulness, a local judge and a real estate developer helped her find a new apartment in a safer neighborhood. Ilitch, when he read about it, called the judge and the real estate developer and said he would pay for her housing as long as necessary and cut thousands of dollars in checks to that effect.
I’ve heard some people poke some holes in this over the years. It’s possible Ilitch did not pay her entire rent for the rest of her life or perhaps someone else contributed or any number of other scenarios unfolded. It’s clear, however, that Ilitch did reach out and did pay good money for Parks’ benefit out of the goodness of his heart and with little if any desire for publicity.
There are no doubt any number of skeletons one can find in the closet of any octogenarian billionaire. Skeletons often come with that territory. But there is no question that Ilitch did a great many of good things for people and his community as well. And as he shuffles off to sports owner Valhalla, it’s good to hear about some of those things.