John W. Fitzgerald was born on November 14, 1924, in Grand Ledge, Michigan. His father, Frank D. Fitzgerald, was Governor of Michigan and his grandfather, John W. Fitzgerald, was a State Representative.
Fitzgerald was graduated from Grand Ledge High School in 1942. He continued his education by receiving his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University and his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. In addition, he studied at Princeton University and the University of Arizona.
Fitzgerald’s career in public service began when he served with the U.S. Army Infantry during World War II. Upon the end of the war, his career in government began. He was the legal counsel for the State Senate from 1955 until 1958, and he served in the State Senate from 1958 until 1962. Fitzgerald practiced in the firm of Fitzgerald and Wirbel until his election to the Court of Appeals in 1964. He remained on the Court of Appeals until his appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court on January 1, 1974. (Michigan Manual: Ed. 1997 – 1998. Lansing, Michigan: Legislative Council, State of Michigan.)
During and after his work on the Michigan Supreme Court, Fitzgerald was influential in the success of Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was part of the history and success of the law school from its start in 1972. From the very first property class in 1973, Fitzgerald served as a board member, an adjunct professor, and a beloved full-time professor at Cooley Law School. He was voted favorite member of the law faculty in a student poll conducted by the Italian-American Law Society. Professor Fitzgerald brought his experience as Court of Appeals Judge, State Senator, legal counsel for the State Senate, Associate and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, to both his students and his colleagues. He lived by the quotation that he wrote on the blackboard for the first Cooley Law School class, “The life so short, the craft so long to learn.” (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan. Rochester, N.Y.: Lawyers and Co-operative Publishing Co., 1949 – 1998, Vol. 447.)
John W. Fitzgerald died July 7, 2006.
Portrait presented on: (Click link to read transcript)
November 10, 1994
Oil on canvas
39 1/2″ X 29 1/2″
State of Michigan
Hall of Justice – 6th Floor:
Justice Brian Zahra’s Suite
Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996