James V. Campbell was born on February 25, 1823, in Buffalo, New York. While still an infant, his family relocated to Detroit where he resided until his death.
Campbell was admitted to the Bench in 1844, and practiced law until he joined the Michigan Supreme Court in 1857. He served on the Court for 32 years, until the time of his death in 1890.
Campbell possessed a talent to teach as well. In 1859, he was chosen as a Marshall Professor of Law in the University of Michigan Law Department. He taught and influenced many young lawyers for 25 years. Former student and later colleague, Isaac Marston, said of Campbell’s teaching, “In the delivery of his lectures, he did not, like the others, state a legal proposition and then seek to illustrate or explain, but from the commencement to the end, he talked in that easy, flowing strain which all who heard him can remember so well, and which made it so difficult to take notes.”
Campbell also possessed a talent to write with ease. Marston also remarked, “On taking up his pen his thoughts seemed to come so easily there was no stopping to think for the proper word, or how to construct a sentence … his writings … flowed in a continuously smooth and graceful manner.”
Literary pursuits were his favorite hobby and he gathered his research on the State of Michigan in a book entitled, Outlines of the Political History of Michigan.
Due to his immense workload and devotion to the activities surrounding the love of the law, Campbell socialized infrequently. In fact, Judge Henry Brown commented that at times, he seemed to shun social interaction. However, this did not detract from his reputation as a wonderful jurist and teacher.
James V. Campbell died on March 26, 1890. (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Michigan. Chicago: Callaghan and Co., 1879 – 1949, Vol. 81.)
Portrait presented on: (Click link to read transcript)
April 24, 1888
Oil on canvas
44 3/4″ X 35 3/4″
State of Michigan
Hall of Justice – 1st Floor: Lobby
Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996