Randolph Manning was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on May 19, 1804. He studied law in New York City and came to Michigan in 1832. Upon his arrival in Michigan, he established a law practice in Pontiac.
Manning was elected Senator from the fifth district in 1837 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Charles C. Hascall. In 1838, he was appointed Secretary of State and he served for two years. In 1836, a Court of Chancery was established and in 1842 Manning was named Chancellor. Manning continued to hold the office until it was abolished in 1847. Also in 1842, he was a member of the Board of Regents for the University of Michigan but resigned later in that same year. Manning was appointed Reporter of the Supreme Court and held the office until the close of 1850.
Upon the organization of an independent Michigan Supreme Court in 1858, he was elected Associate Justice and re-elected upon expiration of his term in 1861. In politics, he was a Democrat until 1854, at which time he became a Republican. His change in party can be traced to his anti-slavery position.
He “was well built and with active motions, being a quick walker . . . his head was bald on top and he wore his iron-gray hair brushed back behind his ears. He had a light sandy complexion, blue eyes, clean-shaven face, and always wore gold-rimmed spectacles . . . He was a matter-of-fact man and seldom indulged in any light conversation or recreation of any kind . . . he was fonder of books and was not partial to music and never sang or even whistled.”
When humorous comments were made during a session of the Court, Justice Manning remained stone-faced while his colleagues and guests in the chambers laughed riotously. One of Manning’s hobbies was horticulture. He took great care of the small orchard behind his house that included apple, pear and plum trees.
Randolph Manning died on August 31, 1864 in Pontiac, Michigan, while he still held a position on the Court. (Ross, Robert B. The Early Bench and Bar of Detroit: From 1805 – 1850. Detroit: Richard P. Joy and Clarence M. Burton, 1907.)
Portrait presented on: (Click link to read transcript)
April 3, 1889
Ives, Lewis Thomas
Oil on canvas
74.93cm X 62.87 (29 1/2″ X 24 3/4″)
State of Michigan
Hall of Justice – 1st Floor: MJI Entrance
Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996