Samuel T. Douglass was born in Wallingford, Vermont, on February 28, 1814. His parents later moved to Fredonia, New York, where Douglass spent his early years. He was educated at Fredonia Academy, later studying law in the office of James Mullet, who was for many years a Judge of the Supreme Court of New York. Douglas came to Detroit in 1837, and was admitted to practice as an attorney later in that same year. Except for a brief time spent working in Ann Arbor, Douglass practiced his profession, as both attorney and judge, in Detroit for over 50 years. In 1849, he entered into partnership with James V. Campbell, whose sister, Elizabeth, he later married in 1856.
In 1845, Douglass was appointed Court Reporter of the Michigan Supreme Court, serving until 1849, when he voluntarily resigned. During his tenure as Reporter, the first two volumes of the Michigan Reports were published, covering the period from 1843 through 1847. Douglass served as Judge of the Wayne Circuit and Michigan Supreme Courts from 1851 until 1857.
When a separate Michigan Supreme Court was organized in 1857, he was nominated by the Democratic Party. Since the Democrats were, at that time, a hopeless minority in the state legislature, his competitor, former partner, and brother-in-law James V. Campbell, was appointed. In May of 1857, Douglass resigned the circuit judgeship and returned to private practice.
In 1860, indulging his love of nature, Douglass built a home and farm on Grosse Ile, on the bank of the Detroit River. His fondness for the study of natural science led him to take part in several exploratory tours of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when it was still almost entirely unsettled. Samuel T. Douglass died on the afternoon of Saturday, March 5, 1898. (Biography compiled by Ann Lucas, Serials Librarian of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Lansing, Michigan, 1998.)
Portrait presented on: (Click link to read transcript)
October 3, 1899
Oil on canvas
74.61cm X 61.91cm (29 3/8″ X 24 3/8″)
State of Michigan
Michigan Supreme Court Detroit
Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996