APRIL 20, 1876
At a session of the Supreme Court held Thursday, April 20, 1876,
The Detroit bar having learned with profound sorrow of the death of Hon. Warner Wing, of Monroe, on the 11th instant, do now at this meeting called for the purpose, bear their testimony to his career as a member of the legal profession, of which he has so long been a distinguished ornament, and also to his many virtues as a public man and citizen.
A native of Ohio and a graduate of the Northampton Law School of Massachusetts, he moved into the Territory of Michigan as early as the year 1817, settling in the city of Monroe, where he continued in the successful practice of his profession for many years— participating meanwhile in State affairs as an active and prominent politician, though never as a partisan— down to the year 1845, when he was called to the bench of the Circuit and Supreme Court retiring therefrom in the year 1856, after an honorable and faithful service of over ten years.
They who composed the bar of Detroit twenty-five years ago when he filled the position of Circuit Judge, entertained for him an affection of the very strongest character, accompanied at the same time with a degree of respect in his office as judge which amounted to more than deference, and now that he has gone, seems well nigh to have approached what might not inappropriately be termed sincere veneration.
Such were his sterling virtues as a man; such his integrity and faithfulness as a Judge, and such his stern requirement of high and honorable practice on the part of all who appeared before him in the discharge of professional duty, that his name became a synonym for judicial purity and honorable counsellorship, and will ever so remain in the annals of our judicial history. Associated as he was upon the bench with men of superior ability he was inferior to none, while his associates unitedly conceded him to be the most laborious and industrious of them all. Inspired by a strong native love of justice, an instinctive perception of the right, however it might be encumbered by complication of fact or conflict of law, and a downright abhorrence of injustice in any form, he always strove to make his decisions as far as possible establish the right and truth of the matter; and so through his whole judicial career he commanded the confidence and respect of the entire legal profession of the State and the warm and admiring affection of his more immediate friends and associates. Of him it may truthfully be said he “judged the people with just judgment and respected not persons nor perverted the truth.”
His genial manners, his warm heart and his lively sympathies with all those with whom his professional or public duties brought him in contact made for him many friends in civil life and secured for him a universal esteem among the citizens of the State with whose history he has been so long identified.
In view of the many excellencies of our deceased brother— far too many for expression in this brief tribute— we do therefore
Resolve, That his death has brought a profound sorrow into the hearts of all his surviving associates and friends, and a sincere regret on the part of those of our number who, while they may not have intimately known him, were nevertheless well acquainted with his distinguished career as an upright judge and his long and unspotted record as a just and honorable counselor.
Resolved, That in testimony of our esteem for the deceased this bar do send a delegation from its members to attend his funeral services to be held at the city of Monroe to-morrow morning, and that the judges of the Federal, Circuit and Superior Courts of the city be requested to adjourn the sessions of their several courts over to-morrow for this purpose.
Resolved, That the President of this meeting be requested to present these resolutions to the Supreme Court of this State at its next session and ask the judges thereof that the same may be entered upon the journal of said court; also that the United States District Attorney be requested to offer the same for record on the journals of the Federal Courts, and that the Prosecuting Attorney be requested to present a copy of the same to the Judge of the Circuit Court of the county of Wayne, and ask that they may be spread upon its journals.
Resolved, That the Secretary of the bar be requested to transmit a copy of these resolutions to the family of the late Judge Wing, and also to furnish the same to the various city papers.
May it please your honors: I am commissioned to present to you certain resolutions adopted by the bar of Detroit on the occasion of the decease in March last, of the Hon. Warner Wing, who was for twelve years one of the Justices of this court, and to ask that they be entered upon your journals.
To what is so admirably expressed in the resolutions, I beg leave to add something of my personal impressions and recollections—I, knew our deceased brother long and well. I was especially intimate with him during the six years prior to 1857, when I was associated with him as a member of this court. He was a man of remarkably fine physique, of pleasing address, of sanguine and impulsive temperament, overflowing and genial wit and humor, and almost feminine sensibility; modest and unpretending— even diffident, though thoroughly independent, self reliant and self respecting; eminently social and capable of strong and enduring attachments, possessed of a fine and delicate insight into character, and in the main eminently just in his judgments of others and tolerant of their faults; though when his tastes or sensibilities were offended I sometimes thought his antipathies were not altogether reasonable. He was withal a thoroughly sincere and earnest man,— more so than those who saw him only in his humorous moods were apt to imagine. He was entirely free from all censurable art or indirection.
He was an able and popular judge; when after twelve years of service he resigned to accept the position of counsel for a railroad company, a position he held until his decease, his retirement was regretted by all.
What were the main elements of his success as a judge? It was not due to his great learning, for that, though respectable, was by no means extraordinary, nor to any remarkable powers either as a speaker or a writer, for unless I misjudged, his thoughts were generally better than his manner of expressing them, though his manner was not open to any severe criticism.
But his success in this as in the various other public positions he held during his long career was, I think, due chiefly to his great sagacity, his practical common sense, his manly independence, his thorough moral and intellectual rectitude, and his conscientious and unswerving devotion to the duties imposed upon him.
Few men in my time have enjoyed a greater share of the respect and confidence of the people of this State and knowing him well, I can say with entire sincerity, that in my judgment, no man better deserved them.
It has not been my privilege to know very much of our lamented brother for the last twenty years. Since his retirement from the bench, his residence in the extreme eastern and my own in the extreme western part of the State, while it has made us in no respect strangers, has interrupted in some degree that friendly intercourse which existed while he occupied the position of Judge of the Circuit and Supreme Courts.
There are however, some reminiscences in the history of Judge Wing of no importance in the abstract, but which connect him with myself in a very pleasant, manner, and which has induced me to follow the history and character of his life with more than ordinary interest. Members of our profession are apt to remember those who were connected with their early advent and who were the instruments of their advancement, with a feeling akin to gratitude. The fact that a judge may have presided at a given trial is of little or no importance, but that he made the order admitting one to the bar is a circumstance likely to make him remembered by a young lawyer, ambitious at least of go far succeeding in the
profession as to earn a living. In 1846, Judge Wing commenced his service on the bench and held his first term at the Eaton Circuit. At the same term I was by his order admitted to practice, and perhaps the first case he heard as a Judge was the first one which I argued as a licensed lawyer in a court of record. The examining committee was composed of John Van Arman, Abner Pratt and Harry Frink, since deceased, but who at that time gave great promise of a brilliant future.
He presided for some years in the then fifth circuit with singular ability and marked success. The bar of that circuit was then perhaps the ablest in the State. The cases which he heard and determined were largely tried by such men as Edward Bradley, James Wright Gordon, Abner Pratt, Isaac E. Crary and John Van Arman,—men of strong common sense and marked personal ability. To this class of men Judge Wing belonged. Whether we have improved upon their practice or not may be questioned, but in many respects there has been a marked change.
They used fewer adjudicated cases and struggled to, bring their causes within well recognized and broad principles of the law. Success in such practice depended largely upon the personal ability of the advocate.
They settled all controversies mainly upon their facts and rarely brought their cases to the Supreme Court for review.
They relied more upon general principles and personal strength and very little upon technical learning or decided cases.
Such a practice induced broad views; and developed the full strength of the practitioner.
Judge Wing upon the bench proceeded with great caution, listened attentively to argument and considered it with great candor and care,— was not opinionated or stubborn and rarely impatient,— always courteous, and to the younger members of the bar indulgent; he encouraged them by listening with great patience to their arguments and treated them with consideration and respect.
He rose very rapidly to a front rank on the bench, where he had an extensive and varied experience. His most noted trial was perhaps that known as the Railroad Conspiracy case,— the longest and most tedious ever held in the State, and he presided in a manner to attract the attention of jurists throughout the country.
His social qualities were admirable. There was in his character a vein of rich and genial humor which made him a pleasant and agreeable companion and a kind and genial friend.
A man of unquestioned honor and integrity, of great purity and love of justice— a conscientious and able lawyer, his life was one worthy of emulation.
THE COURT ordered the resolutions presented to be spread upon the record.