JANUARY 23, 2002
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Good morning. On behalf of my colleagues on the Supreme Court it is my pleasant task to welcome all of you to this special session of Court. Mr. Riley, may I call on you to proceed?
MR. RILEY: Thank you. Madam Chief Justice, justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Historical Society who are present, including our Board of Directors, and ladies and gentlemen. We’re assembled here today for the dedication of the portraits of Chief Justices NEIL E. REID and EDWARD M. SHARPE. These portraits have special meaning because they come to the Court long after the retirement, and indeed the passing, of those justices.
The portraits were painted by Detroit artist Robert Maniscalco of the Maniscalco Gallery, and provided the artist with some unique challenges. The only materials available to the Society and the artist were single black and white photos of each justice. Research produced little information regarding the stature and the coloring of the justices. To complete this project Mr. Maniscalco relied on this information, and also on his artistic judgment.
Madam Chief Justice and justices of the Court I would now like to introduce to you Frederick G. Buesser, III, Vice President of the Society, to present the portrait of Chief Justice Neil Reid to the Court.
MR. BUESSER: Chief Justice Corrigan members of the Court. Justice NEIL E. REID was our sixty-seventh justice. He served on the Court from 1944 until his death in 1956. He was described as a gaunt and colorful man, standing 6’4″ tall.
He began his education in the rural schools of Bruce Township and afterward attended school in Alma and Romeo. A scholarship gave him the opportunity to spend a year at Harvard, and he worked his way through law school at the Detroit College of Law, serving as a law clerk at the grand salary of three dollars a week. He graduated from the Detroit College of Law with an LL.B. in 1896 and accepted appointment as a 16th Judicial Circuit court reporter, in which position he served until he was appointed to the Macomb Probate bench by Governor Fred Warner in 1910.
In 1923 Judge Reid campaigned for and won a seat on the 16th Circuit Court in Mt. Clemens. Due to an interesting turn of events, the judge actually began to serve his term in the August preceding the term for which he was elected, having been appointed to fill a vacancy by then-Governor Alexander J. Groesbeck. So he served out the balance of his deceased predecessor’s term and then served out the balance of his elected term.
In 1943 Judge Reid carried out one of the more interesting campaigns for the Supreme Court. In what the media deemed a postcard campaign, Judge Reid became the first candidate to ever upset an incumbent justice after Michigan’s laws were changed to permit the designation of incumbent on the ballot. His strategy for beating his opponent, Justice BERT D. CHANDLER, was simple. As he described it: “During my years on the bench I have held court in thirty-six of the counties of Michigan. I have a lot of friends. I sent out letters and postcards asking for their votes and my friends got busy.”
He began his service on the Court in 1944 at the age of seventy-three, and during the twelve years he served until his death at the age of eighty-five in 1956 he authored 409 majority or dissenting opinions. Overall, he devoted sixty-two years to the judicial branch of government. During his years of service on the lower court Judge Reid earned a reputation for being a tough judge, especially with cases involving prohibition violators and armed robbers.
It is interesting to note that while on the Supreme Court he upset some of his own tough sentences. In 1955, he wrote an opinion for the Court in the case of Burns v. Rodman, apparently anticipating the presidential election debacle of 2000. It seemed in that case that the circuit court in Schoolcraft County had determined that the election for the supervisor of Manistique Township had been a tie and resolved it by flipping a coin—actually described as by lot. However, Justice REID ruled that the trial judge had incorrectly interpreted five ballots. He examined those ballots closely, and was able to discern that the voters had not intended to vote for Mr. Rodman. Therefore, the election was not a tie and Mr. Burns had in fact won.
Justice REID served as Chief Justice from December 1 to December 31 of 1951, and in 1951 he was re-elected to another term. In May of 1956, while serving as the oldest member of the Court, Justice REID died of a heart attack. Governor G. Mennen Williams commented that Justice REID had dedicated many years of his life to the faithful service of Michigan and his courteous and friendly presence would be missed in the Capitol. He was succeeded by GEORGE EDWARDS who was appointed by Governor Williams to assume his seat. In addition to his service on the bench, Justice REID was active in his community. A lifelong Republican, he served as the president of the Macomb County Republican Club. He was well-known in fraternal circles and served as Most Illustrious Grand Master of Royal and Select Masters of the state in 1926 and 1927. In 1930, Justice REID was elected grand marshal of the Masonic Grand Lodge and served in successive offices of the Grand Lodge until his election in 1936 as Most Worshipful Grand Master of Michigan Masons. He was interested in the welfare of youth—for two years served as president of the Boy Scout County Council and the high school in Clinton Township. Michigan bears his name ill honor of his many contributions to the state and to the community. The dedication of Justice REID’s portrait is long overdue, and it is with great pleasure that the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society presents this portrait of Justice REID.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Mr. Buesser and Mr. Rutherford. Before I call on Mr. Riley again I wanted to take a moment to recognize some members of the audience, many former colleagues on the Supreme Court who are with us this morning, members of the Society. Justice LEVIN, Justice FITZGERALD, Judge RYAN, Chief Justice and Dean BRENNAN, and Chief Justice DOROTHY RILEY. And I also want to take a moment to recognize Attorney General Frank Kelley. At this point, let me call on Tom Mayer, a former law clerk of Justice SHARPE.
MR. MAYER: May it please the Court, EDWARD McGLEN SHARPE was born in 1887 on a farm in Bay County, Michigan. He died eighty-seven years later in 1975 in Bay County, following a life of service to the citizens of Michigan. He was of Irish and Scottish descent, and in his youth he attended rural public school. After graduation from Ferris Institute, he taught in the public schools for five years before returning to Ferris and graduating from the University of Michigan Law School in 1914. Then he returned to Bay City to practice law, which included serving as an assistant prosecuting attorney.
Politically he was a staunch Democrat and served as a Michigan delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention. In 1933 he was nominated by the Democrats to run for a seat on the state Supreme Court, and he was elected, beginning his first term in 1934. While on the Supreme Court, Justice SHARPE co-authored the Courts Code of Judicial Ethics. He served three separate terms as Chief Justice. He was re-elected in 1941 and 1949, and, upon his retirement, had served for twenty-three years.
Justice SHARPE’s commitment to the residents of Michigan extended beyond his work on the Supreme Court. He was a president of the Bay City Lions Club and a member of the Elks. He was the Deputy Sovereign Grand Master of the International Order of Oddfellows, and an honorary member of the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree Masons. Additionally, by appointment by President Eisenhower, Justice SHARPE served on the National Railroad Emergency Board, a bipartisan commission that addressed threatened railroad strikes. But all the foregoing are facts that can be gleaned from the public record. Now I would like to paint for you a picture of the man as I saw him during 1955 and 1956.
Edward Smart was tall, a big man with a full head of white hair. He was partial to cigars. He was humble and caring and thoughtful. He touched the lives of his law clerks. If you’ll permit me a personal recollection, my wife Nancy and I spent the greater part of our first year of marriage in Bay City while I served Justice SHARPE. We had both been born and reared in Detroit, but upon my appointment we moved from Detroit to a city of perhaps 50,000 souls and we were removed from our own families at this key time of our lives. We did not know very many people in Bay City. Judge SHARPE seemed to sense that and strove to make us feel welcome. He invited me, perhaps on my first day in his employ, to lunch at the Lions Club and introduced me to several of the members. When Mrs. Sharpe was elected an officer of the Rebecca Society, Mrs. Sharpe and Judge SHARPE invited us to attend the rather elaborate induction of officers ceremony. Upon his retirement from the Michigan Supreme Court, all of Justice SHARPE’s former law clerks hosted a dinner for Mrs. Sharpe and for him at the old Winona Hotel on the banks of the Saginaw River in Bay City, during which each of the clerks paid a personal tribute to him.
On behalf of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society and on behalf of all the former law clerks of Justice EDWARD McGLEN SHARPE, it is truly an honor for me to present to the Court his portrait.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you, Mr. Mayer, and thank you so much, Mr. Riley.
MR. RILEY: I want to thank the Court on behalf of the Society for giving us this opportunity to present these two portraits to complete the collection.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you again Mr. Riley. As we look at the portraits of these justices whose lives began in the 1800s, we all are reminded of the quick progress of history. These justices served the Court in the 1900s. Just recently the Governor signed a bill, unanimously passed by our Legislature, creating what is called a cyber-court, which holds out for our state the possibility of great changes in the way our legal system will function. But even as this Court contemplates the challenges that Justice SHARPE and Justice REID never could have imagined, our duty remains the same as theirs—to serve the ends of justice.
This special session of the Michigan Supreme Court is concluded.