Henry M. Butzel was born on May 24, 1871, in Detroit, Michigan, and attended public schools there. Butzel then attended the University of Michigan and received a Bachelor of Philosophy, and later, a law degree. While in Ann Arbor, he was one of the founders of the University of Michigan Daily.
Upon the completion of his law studies and admittance to the Bar in 1892, Butzel immediately began practicing law in Detroit. He worked in the law firm of Butzel, Levin, and Winston in Detroit until he assumed his position on the Michigan Supreme Court. Butzel reflected on his appointment to the Court at the presentation of his bust. “I was summering on Cape Cod in 1929 when Governor Green asked me whether I would accept an appointment to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Fellows. I hesitated because it meant such a change in my way of life. I also knew of the heavy burden of cases carried by the Court and that several judges had recently died in office. But after consulting with Mrs. Butzel, I decided to take it for one year, which was the length of the unexpired term of Justice Fellows. I was like the man who came to dinner – I came for one year and I stayed for twenty-six and a half, and I had a happy life.”
In addition to his work on the Court, Butzel was involved in many other public and private organizations. He founded the Legal Aid Bureau and was chairman of the Legal Aid Section of the Draft Board. From 1927-1929, he was the President of the Detroit Bar Association. Butzel served as the chairman of the Judicial Council of Michigan and was also active in the movement to improve Court procedure. Butzel, along with his brother, Fred Butzel, engaged in many philanthropic endeavors.
His retirement from the bench at the age of 84 did not end his public activities for he returned to an important position in Detroit community affairs and to the active practice of law with the firm he founded.
He was married to Mae Schlesinger in 1907 and had three children.
Henry M. Butzel died in 1963. (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan. Rochester, N.Y.: Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Co., 1949 – 1998, Vol. 383.)
Gamble, Roy C.
Oil on canvas
45 1/2″ X 31 1/2″
State of Michigan
Michigan Supreme Court Detroit: Hallway
Portrait photo by:
Douglas Elbinger – June 1996