Mike Ilitch founded Little Caesar’s Pizza in 1959. Through hard work and savvy business acumen, he grew the business and became a billionaire. Mike used some of his earnings to purchase the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise and the Detroit Redwings hockey team. While under his ownership, the Redwings won four Stanly Cups.
The expenditures on sport teams were, obviously, of a public nature. Mike owned a big, beautiful home. He lived well. But Mike also engaged in secret expenditures.
Perhaps you recall Rosa Parks. Rosa achieved fame in the dubious manner of allowing herself to get arrested in 1955 for not giving up her seat for a white passenger on the public bus she was riding in Montgomery, Alabama. Such an event seems unthinkable now; but back then, she, a “person of color,” was mandated to stand at the back of the bus and leave the front half open for whites.
Rosa could not comprehend why she should give up her seat simply because of her skin color. She is widely credited with sparking the civil rights movement that eventually swept through the entire nation in the 1960s.
Back in 1994, Rosa, at the age of 81, was robbed and assaulted in her Detroit home. Mike Ilitch read a newspaper article about the robbery and assault. The story distressed him in a way few stories distressed him. Quietly, behind the headlines, Mike made contact with a mutual friend of Rosa Park’s. He wanted to do something.
For the next decade, Mike Ilitch secretly paid the $2000.00 monthly rent for a safe apartment in which Rosa Parks could comfortably live. She lived there until her death in 2005. Mike paid her rent for the entire time.
Mike Ilitch died on February 10, 2017. Only after his passing did full details about his efforts to help Rosa Parks surface.