Former Judge Who Brought MLK to Detroit Dies


Tony Spina/Detroit Free Press

Controversial former Judge James Del Rio served in the Michigan state house in the 1960’s and on what was then called Detroit Recorder’s Court in the 1970’s, a time that included a gun fight in his courtroom.

In 1963 Del Rio helped organize a civil rights march that drew hundreds of thousands to Detroit to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 2015 Del Rio told WDET he had to convince King he would be safe in the city by invoking the name of another infamous Detroiter.  

I said ‘Martin, over here’s a guy named Jimmy Hoffa. And he’s supposed to be mean and run anybody out he don’t want in” Del Rio said. “But he ain’t gonna run you out. You with me and I’m with you.’ And there’s a picture in my dining room showing I got my right had to King and my left hand to Jimmy Hoffa. And I said ‘Let’s march down the street together.’ And we did.”

Del Rio was removed from the bench in 1977 after being found guilty of 23 counts of judicial misconduct.

He died in San Diego on March 30th. He was 94 years old. 


Click the audio link above to hear the entire 2015 WDET interview with James Del Rio

Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

About the Author

Quinn Klinefelter

Senior News Editor

I grab news in the morning, check the papers and the wires, call sources and take a big gulp of coffee. That’s how I start the day.  

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