INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Judge Damon Keith cried as he recalled the first time he stepped onto West Virginia State University's campus in 1939.
It was the first time he had a black teacher. He was the first of his family to go to college. And in the midst of the Great Depression, he worked his way through school and then went on to become a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, heading landmark decisions.
Keith stood on State's campus Friday afternoon and pointed to Prillerman Hall, where he once lived in dorm room 314C. He still remembers the room number.
Now, that building is being demolished to construct a new 291-bed, suite-style residence hall that will bear his name. The Judge Damon J. Keith Scholars Hall will be the first new dormitory built on State's campus in 44 years.
Keith joined WVSU President Brian Hemphill, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, the school's Board of Governors and other officials Friday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the new residence hall, which is slated to be open for students next fall.
Keith is the recipient of the Springarn Medal -- the NAACP's highest honor. Fellow recipients include the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Colin Powell.
One of his rulings, commonly referred to as "The Keith Decision," prohibited President Richard Nixon and the federal government from engaging in warrantless wiretapping.
"West Virginia State shaped my entire future. It's like the cataracts in my eyes were taken off. I felt motivated," Keith said. "Thank you for all you've done for me and for those yet to come."
On Friday, Keith also announced that he will contribute $50,000 to the university for scholarships.
Friday's event also served as a kickoff for Hemphill's inauguration ceremony Saturday, marking his first year as State's president.