William W. Potter was born on August 1, 1869, in Maple Grove, Michigan. As a youth he walked a distance of eight miles to and from Nashville to attend high school. A burning desire for knowledge, coupled with an indefatigable spirit, enabled him to complete the four-year course in three years. He was a true, spirited American, reared in the days of self-reliance, and by incessant efforts, he equipped himself for the many important duties to which he would be called.
Potter attended Ypsilanti State Normal College and later graduated from the Law Department of the University of Michigan. He taught school and served as superintendent of schools in Harrison for three years.
His career in public service began when he was the City Attorney in Hastings. Later, he was Prosecuting Attorney of Barry County, a Michigan state senator, and a member of the draft board during World War I. As president of the Michigan State Bar Association, he fought for racial integration of the Bar. Potter also served as fuel administrator of the State of Michigan in 1922. He was a member of the Michigan Public Utilities Commission from 1919 to 1927. Potter was elected Attorney General of the State in 1926, and was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1928, where he served until 1940.
Potter was the author of several books. His History of Barry County was accurately and interestingly written. The book Michigan Evidence is in most law offices in the state, and the volume Judicial Power in the United States disclosed the breadth and extent of his research. When Potter died, he left behind four volumes of history that were to be published by the Michigan Historical Society.
In addition to his love of work and his fondness for history, research, and writing, Potter belonged to many fraternal societies. He also had a large family. He was married to Margaret D. Richardson and together the couple had 6 children. (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan. Chicago: Callaghan and Co., 1879 – 1948, Vol. 295.)
William W. Potter died in 1940.
Gamble, Roy C.
Oil on canvas
State of Michigan
Hall of Justice – 6th Floor:
Justice Viviano’s Suite
Portrait photo by:
Douglas Elbinger – June 1996