Robert M. Montgomery was born on May 12, 1849, in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. He went to school until he was 18 years old but began teaching at age 16. Upon his exit from school, he entered the law offices of F.J. Russell in order to study law. He remained there for three years and then he enlisted in the Union Army. Montgomery was a part of the 7th Michigan Cavalry but did not see active service during the Civil War.
Following the war, Montgomery lived in Pentwater, Michigan, where he began practicing law. In addition to his private practice, he also served as the Prosecuting Attorney for the county. In 1877, Montgomery relocated to Grand Rapids and continued his private practice. In his new surroundings, he again found himself in a position of public service as a United States District Attorney for the area until 1881.
His judiciary work began in 1881 when he was elected to serve as a judge of the Seventeenth Circuit. Montgomery remained in this position until 1888, but he resigned for financial reasons. Private practice was more lucrative than his public service, and he began practicing in the firm of Montgomery and Bundy. However, his strictly private existence did not last for long.
In 1891, Montgomery was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court. “As a judge, he was exceedingly painstaking. On any doubtful question, he invariably supplemented the briefs and arguments of counsel by the most rigid examination of the law of the case before him, by a thorough search of the authorities and in the light of his own reason.” (Reed, George I. The Bench and Bar of Michigan: A History and Biography. Chicago: The Century Publishing and Engraving Co., 1897.)
Montgomery worked hard to make his ideas and opinions accessible to the people. He wrote in clear, precise terms and worked hard to be an impartial advocate for his clients and advisor for his colleagues.
Robert M. Montgomery died in 1920.
Alten, Mathias Joseph
Oil on canvas
115.57 x 90.49 cm (45 1/2 x 35 5/8 in)
State of Michigan
Hall of Justice – 5th Floor: Rotunda
Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996