Little Caesars Founder Mike Ilitch Paid for Rosa Parks's Rent and Told No One

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Jun. 16 2021, Published 10:23 a.m. ET

Rosa Parks, Mike Ilitch
Source: Getty

Urban legends exist for a reason: People believe them. The myths that do tend to circulate are often messed up and kinda gross.

But every once in a while, a legend comes around that's super wholesome. One such rumor is the story that the founder of Little Caesers paid for Rosa Parks's rent. But is it true?

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Yes, it is true that the man behind Little Caesers paid for Rosa Parks's rent.

Mike Ilitch didn't only own the $5 pie pizza chain but also the Detroit Tigers. He was an extremely influential and deeply involved member of the city he called home, his friends and family, and the sports community at large.

However, it was a tidbit about his little-known relationship with Rosa Parks that really captivated people's attention.

Rosa Parks plaque
Source: Getty
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Parks had moved to Detroit following her profound moment of refusing to move to the back of the bus, a massively publicized and lauded demonstration of bravery and a huge step for the civil rights movement in America. Her peaceful objection to segregation sparked the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, and after moving to Detroit, she continued to be a vocal and respected fixture of her community.

In 1994, however, Ms. Parks was robbed and assaulted in her home at the age of 81. The amount that was taken off her? $53.

Mike Ilitch, in addition to owning Little Caesars Pizza and the Detroit Tigers, was also a prominent participant in the civil rights movement.

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When he read about the attack on Rosa Parks's life, Judge Damon Keith immediately tried to find a safer, newer apartment for Parks to live in, per USA Today. When Illitch read about the plan in the paper, he called Keith and said that he would pay for Parks's rent for as long as needed.

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"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," Keith told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Parks lived in the apartment until 2005. Word didn't get out about Ilitch's silent gesture of respect to the woman who was one of the most important people in American history until 2014. Keith showed Sports Business Daily the original 1994 check for $2,000 from Little Caesars Enterprises to Riverfront Apartments.

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Michigan's Lt. Governor at the time, Brian Calley, posted a link to an article about Ilitch's generosity after his passing, with the message, "It will give you a sense of the kind of man Mike Ilitch was."

In addition to being committed to Rosa Parks, Ilitch was also committed to the city of Detroit, establishing Little Caesars' headquarters there and owning and operating not one but two sports teams: the Tigers and the Red Wings.

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People on social media are shocked to find out who paid for Rosa Parks's rent for more than 10 years.

Which is understandable! It's not every day that you hear the owner of a nationwide pizza chain was not only involved with the civil rights movement but owned two major sports franchises and paid for Rosa Parks's rent.

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