Aaron McAlvay

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Served from 1905 through 1915
Chief Justice: 1907, 1914

Aaron V. McAlvay was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on July 19, 1847. McAlvay’s father was a Michigan farmer, so he spent most of his early life, when not in school, on the farm. His colleague, Flavius Brooke, stated that, “Born without wealth, the early life of Justice McAlvay was characterized by that constant labor and indomitable perseverance which so strongly tends to the upbuilding of character.” He received his primary education in Michigan common schools and finally received a degree of A. B. from the University of Michigan in 1868, a degree of LL. B. in 1869, and the honorary degree of LL. D. in 1910. In 1872, he married Barbara Bassler and had six children, and Michigan was always his home. McAlvay practiced law for 30 years in all the courts of Michigan. He moved his family to Manistee and set up a law practice there in the firm of McAlvay and Grant. He served for several years as Circuit Judge in Michigan, and for the last 10 1/2 years of his life he served as one of the Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court.

One of McAlvay’s colleagues on the bench commented that, “When Justice McAlvay became a member of the Michigan Supreme Court, he took up his residence in Lansing where he was at that time a comparative stranger. But he was not long to remain so. His social qualities were of a high order, based upon an open and frank friendliness that is certain to win response.”

Aaron V. McAlvay died suddenly on July 9, 1915, while still employed by the Court. (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan. Chicago: Callaghan and Co., 1879 – 1948, Vol. 191.)

Memorial and Portrait presented on: (Click link to read transcript)
April 4, 1916

Portrait Artist:
McKay, Edwin Murray

Oil on canvas

79.38cm X 62.87cm (31 1/4″ X 24 3/4)

Owned by:
State of Michigan

Current location:
Michigan Supreme Court – Detroit

Portrait photo by:
Douglas Elbinger – June 1996