Ross Wilkins

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Image courtesy of the Historical Society for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Served the Territorial Court from 1832 through 1836

Ross Wilkins was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 19, 1799. He was educated at Carlisle College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and was graduated in 1817 when he was just 18 years old. Wilkins studied law in Pittsburgh and held the office of Prosecuting Attorney when he was only 21 years old.

Wilkins married Maria Duncan on May 13, 1823, and continued to live in Pittsburgh and practice law until 1832. At that point, President Andrew Jackson appointed him as one of the Territorial Judges of Michigan. Wilkins held that office until the Territory was admitted as a state in January of 1837. Wilkins then served on the Board of Regents for the University of Michigan from 1837 until 1842.

During the year of 1837, he held the judicial office of Recorder of the City of Detroit, discharging duties of the federal court as well. Upon the admission of Michigan into the Union, Wilkins was appointed a United States District Judge and held the office until the state was divided into two regions. From then on, he was the judge for the Eastern District of Michigan. This office he held until his voluntary retirement in 1870 at the age of 71 years.

For 38 consecutive years, Wilkins held a judicial office in the Territory and State of Michigan, and for many years he was prominent in Territory and State politics. He was a delegate to the Convention of 1836, whose deliberations resulted in the admission of Michigan into the union. The services of Wilkins covered the most critical period marking Michigan’s transition from Territory to Statehood.

Ross Wilkins died on May 17, 1872. (Reed, George, I. The Bench and Bar of Michigan: A History and Biography. Chicago: The Century Publishing and Engraving Co., 1897.)