Walter North

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Served from 1927 through 1952
Chief Justice: 1929, 1936, 1944, 1952


Walter H. North was a native of Michigan, born in Hillsdale County on November 1, 1871. He was brought up on a farm, where he became accustomed to hard work and devotion to duty. He managed to do other work, and it was largely through his own personal efforts and earnings that after completion of his public school education he was able to attend Hillsdale College, where he received an academic degree. He then went on to the law school of the University of Michigan and graduated in 1899. After his graduation, he opened a law office in Battle Creek in partnership with Jesse H. Hatch, the father of then Circuit Court Judge Hatch. Two years later, he entered into partnership with Duane C. Salisbury. He remained in private practice only a short time before he became a Judge of the Circuit Court of Calhoun County on January 1, 1906, a position he held until his appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor Fred Green in 1927.

North practiced law for 53 years. Twenty-two years were spent as Judge of the Thirty-Seventh Judicial Circuit and 25 years as Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. A colleague on the Bench, Henry Butzel, spoke of North’s behavior: “I was overwhelmed by his ability, his knowledge of the law, his character and his industry. I lived at a hotel opposite the Capitol, and, due to noises from the street or within the building, I arose early, usually arriving at the courtrooms shortly after 7 o’clock in the morning. I always found the door leading to our joint waiting room wide open and Judge North already at work. He worked hard all day and when evening came he always went home with a briefcase loaded with briefs and records. I never knew a man of greater industry. In fact, during our noonday lunch hour, unless there was some business that needed immediate attention so as to detain us in the conference room where we ate lunch, Judge North rushed back to his private office and used the extra half-hour to continue his work.”

Walter H. North died on July 23, 1952, while still employed by the Court. (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan. Rochester, N.Y.: Lawyers Co-operative Publishing, 1879 – 1949, Vol. 335.)

Portrait Artist:
Kosak, H.H.

Oil on canvas

104.78cm X 74.14cm (41 1/4″ X 29 3/16″)

Owned by:
State of Michigan

Current location:
Hall of Justice – 6th Floor:
Chief Justice Bridget McCormack’s Suite

Portrait photo by:
Douglas Elbinger – June 1996