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History

Biography:

Judge Stephen T. Roth (1908-1974) was born in Sajo Szoged, Hungary on April 21, 1908. He came to Flint, Michigan, in 1913 and became a naturalized citizen on January 9, 1933.

In 1931, Roth earned a Ph. D. degree from the University of Notre Dame, He earned a J. D. degree from the University of Michigan in 1935. Roth worked his way through both schools. Later, he received a honorary Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan in 1969.

Roth served in the United States Army, as a member of the Criminal Investigations Division, in North Africa and Italy, 1943-1945. During his service, he rose in rank from a private first class to a second lieutenant.

Also, Roth had a distinguished legal career. He served as the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney of Genesee County, 1937-1938; Prosecuting Attorney of Genesee County, 1941-1942; Attorney General, State of Michigan, 1949-1950; and Circuit Court Judge of Michigan, 1952-1962. On May 7, 1962, Judge Roth was appointed U.S. District Judge for the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan by President John F. Kennedy, a position in which Roth served in until his untimely death in 1974. Roth was also active in Genesee County politics and served as chairman of the Genesee County Democratic Committee, 1946-1947.

Judge Roth married Evelyn L. Roth and they had five children: Diane, Susan, Kayla, Charles, and Bradford. Judge Roth died after suffering his third heart attack, on July 11, 1974.

Most importantly, Judge Roth is remembered as the judge who ordered the Detroit schools desegregation, which included major cross-district busing in Detroit in 1972. Roth ruled that the Detroit Board of Education was operating a de jure (by law) segregated school system. The city school system was a link in a long term pattern of discrimination by government, individuals, and agencies. The board also maintained enrollment options which allowed white students to flee black schools. The state had not enforced its written policy statements against segregation. The board had created and changed attendance zones, grade structures, and feeder school patterns with the effect of maintaining segregation. The original case against the Detroit Board of Education was brought by the NAACP. Because of his ruling, Roth was referred to as “the most unpopular man in Detroit.” This action thrust him into the national limelight. In Michigan, he was subjected to a lot of personal abuse and criticism in the press. (This information is from the collection.)