One hundred twenty-five years ago today Howard Wiest (MSC 1921-1943) married Cora Newman of Pontiac, Michigan.

The couple settled in Lansing but also maintained property in Williamston, Michigan, about 20 miles from the Capitol. Justice Wiest entertained his associates here, playing softball and horseshoes, shucking corn, and lowering the American flag at sundown. The memory is not unlike that of summer camp.

This photo, recently found by the Court Clerk and given to the Society, is not labeled. However, it looks like there were MANY justices in attendance. Wiest is in the center right, wearing a bow tie, jacket unbuttoned, and hat at his side. Trying to figure out the rest of those who were in attendance will be my winter puzzle.

Shagbark still stands–although without connection to the Court–at 2905 Rowley Road.

shagbark-justices Click on the photo to enlarge it.

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Veterans Day

Today, November 11th, is celebrated as Veterans Day. It coincides with the anniversary of the end of World War I.

Three Michigan Supreme Court justices who fought in World War I were Harry Toy, wounded three times and gassed once; Thomas McAllister who volunteered for the French Foreign Legion and organized a volunteer ambulance unit; and Harry Kelly who amputated his own leg in the Battle of Chateau-Thierry.

We honor all those who have served in the Armed Forces. God Bless America!

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Until November 7, 1972, a woman had never served on the Michigan Supreme Court. That changed with the election of Mary Stallings Coleman, the 85th justice. As a young child, Coleman had lived in the home of another pioneering woman: Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Hear Justice Coleman discuss this, and so much more about her life, in an oral history recorded for the Society in 1991.

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One of the perks of membership in the Society’s Advocates Guild is exclusive invitation to a dinner that coincides with the opening session of the Court’s new term in October. Attendees receive a keepsake from Michigan’s own, Pewabic Pottery. Etched on the face of the tile is the silhouette of the Hall of Justice, and each year the color of the tile changes. The first year was blue, subsequent years have been green and gold.

What color will this year’s tile betile-collage? That is a mystery!

Invitations will be mailed soon to all current, dues-paying Advocates Guild members. If you are interested in joining, now is the time.

*A limited number of previous year’s tiles are available for purchase by Advocates who wish to add to their collection.

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Rollin PersonIn 1915 Justice Aaron McAlvay died suddenly, leaving a vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court. Governor Woodbridge Ferris (the only Democratic governor between 1893 and 1933) appointed Rollin Person to the spot a week later on July 16, 1915. Person, an attorney and former judge, was defeated in the 1916 general election; his term ended on December 31, 1916, and he was replaced by Justice Grant Fellows.

While Justice Person’s time on the Court was brief, he has endured because of his daily habit of writing a diary. Entries include information about his family and friends, his work on the Court, the weather, and even the score of the UM vs. MAC (now MSU) football game. May history prevail again this Fall!

The diary entries are part of the Society’s High School Lesson Plans  and were studied by students in the Exploring Careers in the Law summer program this week. To learn more about Exploring Careers in the Law, including what they have planned for tomorrow, read the article in the Legal News.

Had Person lived a century later, one can only imagine that he might have been writing a blog instead.

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The Sunday paper has been filled with back-to-school ads for the past two weeks. While it is still a bit early to declare this summer done, it IS a great time for us to remind teachers of the many educational resources available from the Society.

Chief among these is the week-long teaching unit on the Verdict of History, the most significant Michigan Supreme Court opinions from the first two centuries of the Court. The Verdict of History lesson plans profile seven of the 20 top cases, asking students to think about how they would decide if they were the justice. The lesson plans include instruction on legal brief writing and a mini-moot court activity.

All of which have been designed to make the job of educators easier this fall so they can continue to enjoy summer now.


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The current issue of Chronicle, the quarterly magazine of the Historical Society of Michigan, includes a story about Jane Sweetman Bacon, the first wife of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Nathaniel Bacon (MSC 1855-1857). Their pioneer life in Niles, Michigan, in the 1830s was described by their daughter Mary Hannah:

Ah, what a playground was here for the children…all summer here they raced and climbed and swung….the wise young mother turned the grove into an academy, herself a modest and unconscious Plato.

Sadly, Jane died in 1841, more than a decade before her husband was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

For more about Justice Bacon, you can read his biography, the transcript of his portrait dedication, and the reason what we do here at the Society is so important. Yesterday, July 14, was the 211th anniversary of his birth.

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Our executive director Carrie was on vacation last week on the shores of Lake Michigan. She came back with a sunburn … and a little inspiration from an unusual source.

“But isn’t the human factor what connects us so deeply to our past? Will future generations care as much for chronologies and casualty statistics as they would for the personal accounts of individuals not so different from themselves? By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from a history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it?”

This wonderful, fabulous line about preserving history is from World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. The Society maintains its own, zombie-free oral histories here.

WORLD WAR ZPhoto Source

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