SEPTEMBER 23, 1987
CHIEF JUSTICE RILEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of myself and my dear colleagues, I welcome you, friends and family of the late Justice BLAIR MOODY, JR., the ninety-first justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
I would like to acknowledge the presence this afternoon of the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Michigan, Martha Griffiths, and also former Governor and Supreme Court Justice JOHN B. SWAINSON. I also call on a personal privilege because I see present this afternoon a former colleague of the Honorable BLAIR MOODY, and someone I’ve worked for and learned everything I know, the Honorable George E. Bowles.
I’d like to call on first, Eugene D. Mossner, President of the State Bar of Michigan.
I count it a real honor to be present here today, representing the twenty-five thousand lawyers of the State of Michigan, to pay tribute to a lawyer and a judge and a justice of the Supreme Court whom we all loved and admired. He walked among us for a comparatively short period of time, yet each of us, in different ways, were touched by this very warm and friendly man who gave so much of himself to our system of justice.
It was my privilege to know Justice MOODY personally, professionally, and politically. As my wife and I drove in from Saginaw this afternoon, I noticed the leaves changing from green to yellow and red, and I remembered the last time we saw Blair. It was just five years ago, almost to the week, that we campaigned together up in the Saginaw and Bay City and Midland area and ended with a fundraiser at the Bay Valley Inn.
It was a very nice reception, and I remember, as he drove away from the Bay Valley Inn that evening, he flashed one of those infectious smiles that he always had. That is my last remembrance of Blair. Two months later, of course, we were sitting in Grosse Pointe Memorial Church saying farewell.
We knew him all too briefly. But, even though he was taken from us so soon, he left an indelible imprint on the jurisprudence of this state and on all of our lives.
So much could be said about that, but time does not permit.
I think it’s quite fitting that we meet this afternoon to dedicate this portrait; it’s the end of Constitution week, when we’re taking particular note, honoring the two-hundredth anniversary of the Constitution of the United States. One of the things that Blair stood for and defended always was the right, the sacred right, of trial by jury that’s written into the Bill of Rights. Today, when that right is being attacked in so many ways, subtle ways, it is good that we remember people like Blair and vow to defend it as vigorously as he did.
When the State Bar, through its board of commissioners, honored Blair at its meeting on January 14, 1983, I was given the honor of writing the memorial resolution. In closing, I would like to quote a few lines from that resolution because they’re still very appropriate today:
It was said, upon the passing of another great statesman from Michigan, who happened to be the predecessor of BLAIR MOODY’S father in the United States Senate, “And when he fell in whirlwind,/ He went down/ As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs,/ Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,/ And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.”(1) This also is an apt tribute to our fallen colleague; BLAIR MOODY is gone, and there is a lonesome place against the sky.
It is still difficult for us to believe that he is gone. That death has taken from us his gifted jurist who was, as columnist Judd Arnett called him, “so young, so vital and so full of promise.” But when we recall the words of the poet: “There is no death! The stars go down/To rise upon some other shore,/ And bright in heaven’s jeweled crown/ They shine forevermore.”(2) The lawyers of Michigan were fortunate indeed to have had such a star among us, even for just a little while. And we are very proud that he is one of us.
CHIEF JUSTICERILEY: I ask your forgiveness in not having first presented to you Reverend Nicholas Hood for the invocation.
REVEREND HOOD: Prior to the invocation, Council President Erma Henderson asked if I would present the testimonial resolution which the City Council has adopted. Two of my colleagues are here, the Honorable Maryann Mahaffey and the Honorable Mel Ravitz, and we would present this to the family. And, unlike as so often is the case with the Supreme Court, this is unanimously adopted.
Let us bow together in prayer:
Almighty God, we, the friends, colleagues and admirers of Justice BLAIR MOODY, JR., are honored to come together today to dedicate this portrait to our esteemed friend. We have been blessed with his gifts and talents as a father, a friend, an attorney, and a judge.
We’re thankful for his example as a justice of our Supreme Court and a lawyer in our community. As a lawyer, he represented his clients with professional vigor. And, as a trial judge, he was fair and even-handed— never forgetting what it felt like to be on the other side of the bench.
Almighty God, we ask that this symbol of our gratitude honor his work among us today, and always may this portrait serve as a reminder of your best gift: persons.
CHIEF JUSTICE RILEY: I’d like to introduce to you now Mr. Leonard Wilcox, Justice MOODY’S former law partner at Sullivan, Eames, and Moody.
I would like to commend to you the person who led the organization and work of the committee that has been responsible for today’s event: James L. Borin.
Justice BLAIR MOODY, JR., was admitted to the practice of law in the State of Michigan on July 22, 1952 in a ceremony conducted before the Washtenaw Circuit Court. He had been born twenty-four years earlier on February 27, 1928, in Detroit, the son of Blair and Mary Williamson Moody. He attended public schools in the Washington, D.C., area where his father served for many years as a writer and as Washington bureau chief for the Detroit News, and later as United States Senator from Michigan.
He attended the University of Michigan, working during the summers as a reporter for both the Detroit News and the Washington Post. He received his A.B. degree in 1949, and his L.L.B. degree in 1952. Upon graduation from law school, he served on active duty in the United States Air Force during the Korean War.
Justice MOODY married Mary Lou Kennedy on August 18, 1951, and I would like to introduce her to you at this time: Mary Lou Moody.
They had five children, all of whom are present today, and I’d like to also introduce them.
First of all, Diane and her husband Steven Shier, Blair, III, Susan, Brian, and Peter.
Upon release from military duty, Justice MOODY returned to Michigan and entered private law practice in Detroit. He was first an associate, and later partner, of Robert A. Sullivan, Rex Eames, William B. Elmer, and William J. Petrillo. His practice was general in character, including trial work before all of the courts, motor carrier regulatory work, representation of closely held corporations, and directing trade association activity. He practiced extensively in workmen’s compensation and automobile negligence, primarily as defense counsel, but representing plaintiffs as well.
It was my privilege to join Justice MOODY in the practice of law after my graduation from law school in 1958. I will not forget the evening that he called me in Ann Arbor, following interviews at Sullivan, Elmer, Eames, and Moody, to offer me an associate position with his firm. As every law graduate knows, especially those with a wife and a child, this was an enormous lift to me, but I had no idea how rewarding my association with him would be in the years ahead. And this same experience was to be shared by other associates of his: Roger E. Craig, David L. Nelson, Frank J. Kerwin, Jordan Rossen, Richard A. Rossman, and Judge Richard P. Riordan.
Justice MOODY was tireless in the practice. His days were full and his workload heavy at all times. Saturday was a regular day of work, and late evening work was common. He took every client’s matter seriously, and he spent whatever time was necessary, particularly in communicating directly and personally with clients. And he always completed their work in a thoroughly professional manner.
He was an honest and moral man, always was cheerful, and his personal relations with colleagues in the firm— secretaries, clients, other attorneys, judges and court personnel—were always pleasant and gentlemanly. He went out of his way to say a personal word to others, showing particular solicitude for spouses, children, and parents of others.
Lest it seem he had no faults, it should be noted on this record that he possessed probably the worst handwriting of any lawyer. It made deciphering notes in his files nearly impossible. He also frequently brought one or all of the children down with him on Saturdays, giving Mary Lou a much-deserved breather, but leading Jordan Rossen, for one, to seek premium pay for babysitting.
Justice MOODY had the highest sense of civic responsibility and patriotism, which he clearly intended to carry forward his father’s similar devotion. He had shown early leadership strengths of his own as student legislature president while at the university. Thus, despite the heavy demands of his law practice and the strong commitment to his family life, he nevertheless took an active role in the Democratic Party at all levels: local, district, state, and national. He was particularly proud to have served as Chairman of “Citizens for Kennedy” during the 1960 campaign.
His political philosophy, which was expressed in many conversations, was progressive and pragmatic. He deeply believed in the dignity of every individual, the need to redress the power relationship between the privileged and the weak, and to advance the cause of blacks and other minorities that they might more fully share in the benefits of this great land. He respected others who shared his dedication to good government, even though they chose to do so through the work of the Republican Party.
This call to public service found its fulfillment in his election as a Wayne Circuit Judge in 1965 which, to the regret of his partners and associates, brought his career in private law practice to a close. This period of his life was most certainly personally satisfying because of his love of the law as a profession. It was at the same time an exceptional experience for all of us who shared it with him.
CHIEF JUSTICE RILEY: We have so many special people here this afternoon, and we’re not in the position to acknowledge all of them. But I think it particularly important to acknowledge former colleagues of Justice BLAIR MOODY when he was on the Wayne Circuit Court here, and we have with us this afternoon the Honorable James Montante.
I also want to introduce the Honorable Horace Gilmore, a former colleague of BLAIR MOODY’S on the Wayne Circuit Court and now judge of the United States District Court.
JUDGE GILMORE: Chief Justice RILEY, members of the Court, Lieutenant Governor Griffiths, Governor Swainson, Chief Justice WILLIAMS, my former colleagues of the circuit court, Mary Lou and all of the Moody family:
BLAIR MOODY was a fine circuit judge, a good friend, and a man of great intellect, integrity, and good humor. It was my privilege to serve with Blair on the circuit court for more than ten years. Our chambers were across the hall from each other’s, and we regularly visited at lunch time, recess time, and before and after court.
Although I had known him well before he became a circuit judge, because I had worked with him in his father’s campaign for the United States Senate and had kept in touch with him in the intervening years, it was not until he became a circuit judge that I realized what a talented and able person he was.
Blair was first of all a fine trial judge. Although he had more than his share of important cases while serving on the Wayne Circuit Court, I will mention only two. Probably the most important was the Detroit stadium case.(3) There he held that a stadium could not be built downtown because the bond issue was too expensive for the taxpayers. It was a highly controversial decision which was affirmed by the Supreme Court when that court adopted Blair’s opinion.
Another major case was the Public Bank case.(4) This was a matter that required great care, close attention, and great legal skill. The Public Bank, a large bank in the City of Detroit, was in receivership, and it was Blair’s responsibility to protect all of the depositors. By careful, hard work in and out of the courtroom, he succeeded in doing so, and no one lost a cent because of the failure of that bank.
Blair was particularly concerned with the spread of narcotics. Even though the problems when he was a circuit judge were not anywhere nearly as bad as they are today, he nonetheless, early on, called for hospital care for addicts, while at the same time reminding the public that the use and sale of narcotics was a serious crime.
This came about in the case of seven persons arrested in 1969 and convicted by a jury of possession, conspiring to possess, and controlling heroin. Blair decried the state’s lack of facilities for treating and curing narcotics addicts and called upon the Legislature to set up proper treatment facilities. His plea was very strong and is equally applicable today as it was nearly twenty years ago.
He said: “This court cries out to the Governor and the State Legislature, and the Correctional Commission authorities to fund, house and establish a treatment facility in this State to render medical and psychological treatment to respondents who must be committed for these offenses, beyond mere sterile incarceration.” He described drug addiction as a cancer to society that feeds upon itself and whose tentacles reached into every school and recreation area in the community.
Blair was not only a fine judge with a fine sense of humor, he was always even tempered on the bench. No one can ever remember when he lost his temper in the courtroom. He was even-handed in the disposition of cases and well informed in every case on the facts and the law. Every person in his courtroom was treated with respect, and he constantly emphasized to his staff that everyone must be so treated.
In addition he was most strict on decorum, and one day told me he felt that the conduct of persons in court should be the same as the conduct of persons in church because the adjudication of rights, to him, was a sacred matter.
Blair was not without his fun side. I will never forget the time in 1966 when the two of us were at the state judicial conference in Boyne Mountain. At that time, Chief Justice WILLIAMS was running for the United States Senate in a primary against then Mayor Cavanagh of the City of Detroit.
Judge VINCENT BRENNAN of the Court of Appeals was a strong Cavanagh supporter, and Blair and I noticed his car just before it was time to go home. It was loaded and covered with “Cavanagh” stickers. Blair suggested that we do something about that, and so the two of us got “Williams for Senate” stickers and placed them over the “Cavanagh” stickers on the front of his car. In that way, it was likely that Judge BRENNAN would not see them for some time. We retired, and, as far as we know, Judge BRENNAN carried the “Williams” stickers for many, many days and maybe weeks. Blair always liked to recount that incident when we were talking about political campaigns.
Blair was active in the affairs of the bench. He served on the Executive Committee of the Wayne Circuit Court and, during his tenure, was chairman of the two most important committees of the bench: the friend of the court committee and the probation committee.
It was always fun to be with Blair, and he made everyone feel good. I think Pete Waldmeir said it very well in a column he wrote after Blair’s death. He said: “He was kind and compassionate, the sort of person that, if you were a parent, you would want your kid to grow up to be. Not Boy Scout-simple. Just a truly intelligent, reasoned, loving man whose smile was a real bonus because it could make you feel good.”
Blair was a great human being. We all miss him very much.
CHIEF JUSTICE RILEY: Thank you.
Now I’d like to introduce to you a former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and the gentleman who favored the State of Michigan by appointing BLAIR MOODY to the Court, the Honorable G. MENNEN WILLIAMS.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Thank you very, very much, Chief Justice RILEY, associate justices, Lieutenant Governor Martha Griffiths, Governor-Justice JOHN SWAINSON, my colleagues of the bench and bar, Mary Lou Moody, her family and friends:
According to my instructions, I have prepared a very short statement about BLAIR MOODY on the Court, but inasmuch as no one has said anything about BLAIR MOODY on the campaign trail, which was not an infrequent part of his existence, I might just say a word or two because I campaigned with Blair a number of times, particularly when he was running for the Court.
Blair had such a tremendous love of people. He so enjoyed talking with them, that he really stuck to every person just like a leech. It really drove me up the wall because we would go to, let’s say, the Octoberfest of the German Society, and we’d get into that tent and there were, oh, maybe a hundred or so people sitting, drinking beer, ready to be converted, and Blair would not get through the first table. He would discuss the life history of every person he talked with; he just couldn’t be pulled away.
I remonstrated with him always about that, but somehow or other his individual appreciation of the person in front of him didn’t permit him to go on and cover the rest of the people there. So, I guess it didn’t make any difference, because he got elected—but it gave me ulcers.
BLAIR MOODY, JR., was my office mate and nearest friend on the Supreme Court, so I knew him and his work very well. And I respected all I knew. BLAIR gave full measure of himself in his devotion to justice. He really agonized over every decision, and his judgments were true to the law and to his compassion for a better life for all people.
Blair did well in all he did on the Court. But his major contribution, and the one he felt most deeply about, was his preserving the Pigeon River Wilderness and, through it, the whole state from irresponsible oil drilling.
Next was his work to develop sentence guidelines to minimize disparity of sentencing and maximize the deterrent and rehabilitative effect of individual sentencing.
More than once, driving back to Detroit from Lansing with Blair, he stopped at the State Employees Credit Union to pick up some cash for one or another child at Michigan State University. This action, and what he said, demonstrated his tremendous love of family, his absolute love and devotion to Mary Lou, shown in every act. The Supreme Court was enriched by Blair’s presence, as it will be by the gift of his portrait.
Let me close, as I did in my eulogy to him, with two sentences from the usually assiduous Pete Waldmeir, my friend, and a precedent I guess I can quote since the learned Horace Gilmore has already done so. The two sentences I have chosen, however, are different from, but no better than, those chosen by Judge Gilmore:
“It seems cruel irony that BLAIR MOODY’S heart gave out on him. It never failed anyone else.”
CHIEF JUSTICE RILEY: Now for this very special moment, the presentation of BLAIR MOODY’S picture. I’d like to call upon the family to step forward and to introduce the artist, Mr. Maniscalco.
[At which time the portrait was unveiled.]
MRS. MOODY: We’d like to present this portrait to the Michigan Supreme Court, family, and friends of Justice MOODY.
CHIEF JUSTICE RILEY: Brian, would you please say a few words about your dad?
Ladies and gentlemen, my family and I would like to thank you for taking time away from your demanding schedules for the purpose of memorializing my father BLAIR MOODY, JR., and his service to the citizens of the State of Michigan as a Michigan Supreme Court justice.
Most of you here today may have known BLAIR MOODY, JR., as a lawyer and a jurist. I, too, after attending law school, have realized he was a very fine jurist. But today I would like to share with you how I knew BLAIR MOODY, JR., best, as a father.
As a family man, he was energetic, devoted, encouraging, and very caring and loving. Along with the support and understanding of my mother, Mary Lou Moody, he taught us patience as well as persistence, compassion as well as firmness, kindness, thoughtfulness, truthfulness, and the importance of education.
We will always remember his words of encouragement and his supportive smile, not only in times of need, but also every time we crossed his path. My father touched all our lives in a special way, and out of great respect and love for him we endeavor to carry the integrity in his fine teachings not only in the field of law, but also as citizens of this great country.
Our family is very proud of BLAIR MOODY, JR., and his accomplishments, both as a jurist and family man. We realize he would be very pleased to know that so many of you contributed your time, energy, and financial support to this memorable occasion.
At this time, we would like to give special thanks to Mr. James Borin, who helped organize and serve as chairman of the portrait fund committee; Mr. Leonard Wilcox, who served as treasurer of the portrait fund committee; Mr. William Kuckenbrod and Miss Vickie Manetta, who also served as members of the committee.
In addition, we would like to thank Dean Bernard Dobranski and Dean Mary Barden of the University of Detroit School of Law for contributing the proceeds raised from Mr. Borin’s no-fault insurance seminar to the portrait fund. And we would like to thank the law firm of Garan, Lucow, Miller, Seward, Cooper & Becker for all the help and support in making this ceremony a success.
Again, we would like to extend the warmest thanks to you in helping us memorialize my father, the late Michigan Supreme Court Justice BLAIR MOODY, JR. As a remembrance of this special occasion, we would like to give each of you a photograph of the portrait, which can be received at the exit of the auditorium.
As you return to your pursuits, may the hills lie flat before you, and wind be at your back.
Thank you, and God bless you.
CHIEF JUSTICE RILEY: Thank you, Brian. And thank you, Mr. Maniscalco, for painting that beautiful portrait, something that had to be done. And also, thank you, Mr. Mossner, President of the State Bar; Mr. Leonard Wilcox; Judge Horace Gilmore; and Chief Justice G. MENNEN WILLIAMS, for giving us some insight into the man you knew.
It has been said there is nothing remarkable about being the top person in your profession, somebody has to be. But there is something remarkable if the top person is also the nicest. Such a person was Justice BLAIR MOODY, JR. In his directness, his honesty, his independence, and his humility, he embodied the best of the American spirit. He was and will always be remembered as a gentle man. My colleagues and I thank you for presenting this portrait to our Court and, in a sense, for bringing him home.
1) Edwin Markham, Lincoln, The Man of the People—Reporter.
2) John Luckey McCreery, There is no Death—Reporter.
3) Alan v Wayne Co., 388 Mich 210; 200 NW2d 628; 67 ALR3d 1079 (1972)—Reporter.
4) Comm’r of Banking v Berry, 27 Mich App 271; 183 NW2d 436 (1970)—Reporter.