In Memoriam Franz C. Kuhn

OCTOBER 19, 1926

Upon the coming in of Court in the afternoon of October 19, 1926, former  Justice JOSEPH B. MOORE spoke as follows:
If Your Honors Please:
You have graciously set apart this hour to be devoted to the presentation of an excellent portrait and the reading of resolutions in relation to a man who had a very honorable record as a member of this Court. The portrait will be presented by WALTER F. HAASS of the Detroit bar, a very intimate friend of the late Justice KUHN.

Your Honors:
The late Justice FRANZ C. KUHN in his lifetime had prepared and painted of himself a portrait, and by his last will and testament he bequeathed it, or a replica, to the Supreme Court of Michigan. Mrs. Kuhn, the widow, and the Union Trust Company, the executor under the will, are now complying with his instructions and wishes. They have asked Judges MOORE and CARPENTER to designate a member of the bar to make the presentation. By their choice, the duty has fallen upon me. I recognize, of course, that I have been chosen, not because of a any special distinction which I may have attained, but because I have been, for many years, one of the closest friends and confidants of the late Justice KUHN. On reflection, I recognize, too, that it is a distinction to have held such intimate relations with such a man as I knew him to be.

My appointment carries with it the duty to present to you a picture, if not so lasting, nevertheless as true as any painter may put upon canvas. I know that my directions from the late Justice KUHN would have been that the picture shall be an honest one. He would wish no undeserved praise, and no unmerited claim to greatness made for him. It is both the privilege and the penalty of those who occupy your high position, that your work becomes a matter of public record, to be again judged by those who follow you. Nothing that I may say can add to or detract from his work as a Judge on this Bench. A great portion of his life was spent in the public service, and it is well known to all of you that he attained success after success, and that he filled each succeeding position with credit to himself and with profit to the public whom he served. It is rather for me to tell you of those qualities of character, those hopes and aspirations which made his success possible, and in fact made it certain. The art of photography has advanced to the degree that fine and beautiful likenesses are obtained, but, unfortunately, the ancient art of portrait painting has seemed to suffer in consequence. There seem to be today few, if any, Rembrandts, Van Dycks, Frans Halses, Reynoldses, or Hobbemas.

Those great artists did not reproduce merely a likeness of the stilted individual who sat before them in the unusual position of subject of a painting, but had the genius to catch the marks of strength and weakness of character in the subject and transfer them to the canvas, and so produce those great works of art which, generations afterwards, we delight to see. It requires no genius on my part to detail in words what I was privileged to observe of the great and good character of the man whom we are here to honor.

I first knew Justice KUHN when he came to the home of my father as an intimate of my older brothers. There he was a welcome guest, at a table which was never too short to accommodate, without notice, the friends of each member of the family. The years that separated us, which afterwards were so few, seemed then many. As a matter of fact, he was merely a boy. I remember best his cheery nature and his boundless enthusiasm. Afterward, when I, too, studied law and entered into the profession which was also his own, our bonds of friendship became stronger and stronger, until, in the years when he occupied the high position on this Bench, we entered into that relation of intimacy, out of which I received so much pleasure and profit.

FRANZ KUHN’S virtues were many and they were deep rooted. He was ruggedly honest. I do not believe the temptation was ever great in him to be otherwise in a material sense. He hated dishonesty, cant, and pretense, but most of all, he hated that dishonesty which was bound up with disloyalty. The lawyer untrue to his client and the agent who receives compensation from his principal and fails to do his utmost to serve, even though the transaction might sill be profitable to the principal, he detested. Nothing short of one’s best efforts for those whom one served was satisfactory to him.

He was kindness and gentleness itself. FRANZ KUHN was unwilling to hurt any human being. His greatest trials resulted from the quarrels and disagreements between his friends and those whom he held dear. His friends were legion, and they must have been on both sides of many controversies. It could not but hurt him to be obliged to choose between them, and by so doing hurt one or more of them. If there was a weak link in the chain of his character, it was in this, but it was more apparent than real. Some men have friendships so strong that it is said of them that they will do anything short of murder for their friends, and expect their friends to do as much for them. FRANZ KUHN was not one of these. He asked no one to do wrong for him, nor would he do wrong for his friends, nor could he easily hurt one friend for another. He was broad, liberal and impartial in his judgments of others. He could generally see good in most men, and never overlooked the opportunity of finding an excuse for ill-conduct of another. He demanded much from himself but little for himself. He was frugal, his personal wants were few. He was punctual and exact.

To a great degree, he had unusual executive ability. Notwithstanding his love of peace and friendship, he could and did make his decisions promptly and stand upon them. He had little patience with unnecessary delay. When there was a job to be done or decision to be given, he was willing to do it or give it as soon as possible. He believed in cleaning up the docket, so to speak, even if it entailed the performance of disagreeable duties. His success in the management of the great quasi public corporation to which he gave his loyal service after he left the Bench, is a monument to his executive ability. His advice was sought and valued by the great financial institutions on whose boards he afterwards sat with credit to himself and with profit to each institution.

But he had one quality or phase of character that was remarkable and outstanding in the degree of its intensity. It was his loyalty. Not less than the most affectionate and warm-hearted of us all did he love his wife and child, father and mother, family, relatives, personal friends and his country. In addition to these, he had in his heart room for the deepest affection for his town, his county, his State, his early religious teachings, his university, his political party, his many fraternities, and his associates. All these meant more to him than to most men, however warm-hearted. It was no empty gesture on his part when he greeted an old associated, townsman or fraternity brother so enthusiastically. The greeting was from the heart. The high objects of the various fraternal organizations were real to him. The prosperity of his town, the success of his party were dear to him. I saw most of him when he was serving on this Bench.

Some of you were his associates. Nothing did he ever tell me of any of you that did not raise you in my esteem. He was grateful for the manner in which he was first received among you, and he cherished highly your friendship for him.
One statement which he once made to me has always remained fresh in my memory, and I have told it many times. He said: “Early in my life as I began to gain position and success, I determined that no matter to what heights I might rise, I would never forget my old friends, and would attempt to retain their friendships.” This, I think, was the secret of his great popularity. This sentiment dominated his life. He was unusual in that, while he constantly made new warm friends in each new circle into which he moved, he still cultivated and deepened the friendships which he already held.

This, then, was the man whom we knew and loved, and whose portrait I now present to you in behalf of Mrs. KUHN and of the estate. It joins a distinguished company and is worthy of its place, and it will be, as he would like it to be, among the portraits of his friends.

 Judge MOORE:
If the Court Please:
WADE MILLIS as president of the State Bar Association appointed a committee to draft resolutions to be presented to this Court. I will proceed to read them:

FRANZ CHRISTIAN KUHN, one of the most beloved, able and well-known citizens of Michigan, was born in Detroit on February 8, 1872, and died in that city on June 16, 1926. He graduated from the literary department of the University of Michigan in 1893 and from the law department of that institution in 1894. He began the practice of law at Mr. Clemens, Michigan, immediately after his graduation and served his county as circuit court commissioner until 1896. In the last-named year he was elected prosecuting attorney of that office. In 1904 he began his first judicial work, by reason of his election as probate judge of Macomb county, a position which he held until he resigned in 1910 in order to accept the office of Attorney General of the State. His administration of the offices above referred to had been so uniformly successful and satisfactory that he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court of Michigan in 1912. At the expiration of the term for which he was appointed, he was elected to and remained a member of the Supreme Court until 1920, when he resigned and soon thereafter was appointed president of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company, in which service and position he was engaged at the time of his decease.

During the six years he was prosecuting attorney he was diligent in his legal work, doing his share to see that the provisions of law were fully met.

As a judge of probate he gave excellent advice where it was his duty to advise.

Many widows and orphans profited by what he said to them and many estates were conserved by his work as probate judge.

His discharge of the duties of Attorney General deserves the highest praise.

His opinions while a member of the Supreme Court may be found in 37 volumes of the Michigan Reports, commencing with volume 172, and attest his legal learning, his great industry and his love of justice more forcibly than any words of ours can do.

As president of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company, among many other things, he believed that the good will of the public was one of the most valuable assets of the corporation, and so far as he could control its affairs he strove to have it deserve the good will of the public.

The life of Justice KUHN was primarily and notably one of devoted service to his State, to his friends and to the public utility through which, in his later years, he continued to serve the Commonwealth.

The results of his labors have been worthily and permanently written into the judicial, political and business history of Michigan during the past quarter of a century. The rules by which his life was governed and by the observance of which he progressively achieved honors and success contain no secret undisclosed formula. He followed without deviation the straight, open and well-defined paths of progress which brought to him, at an early date, as the above brief sketch of his life indicates, the well-deserved confidence, esteem and respect of his fellow men. He was an indefatigable and earnest worker. To his work he gave all of his zeal and ability under the direction of a conscientious and temperate mind. The Michigan Bench and Bar, the public affairs of the State and its entire social fabric have received permanent and substantial benefit because of the sterling character of the life and labors of Justice KUHN.

We sympathize deeply with the members of his family in their great loss.

We ask that this brief memorial may be spread upon the records of this great Court, and be printed in its Reports.


Judge MOORE: As you know and as has been said, Justice KUHN was an Attorney General of this State, and that department will be represented by Mr. JAMES A. GREENE.

 Mr. GREENE: As has been suggested by Justice MOORE, it has been thought altogether fitting and proper that the Attorney General’s office be represented here on this occasion to pay tribute to one of the predecessors of that office. Due to the physical condition of Mr. DOUGHERTY, it is quite impossible for him to appear here this afternoon, and it has fallen to my lot as a member of his staff to represent him on this occasion. I was not aware of Mr. DOUGHERTY’S inability to appear until last evening; therefore I have dictated and have with me a few thoughts which I hope may be considered appropriate from the standpoint of the Attorney General’s department on this occasion.

It was not my good fortune to have become as intimately acquainted with the late

Justice FRANZ C. KUHN as with some of the other members of this Court. It would therefore be idle and inappropriate for me to attempt on this occasion an exhaustive eulogy of the deceased jurist.

While I held a more or less passive acquaintance with him during his incumbency of the office of Attorney General, and knew and highly respected him as a member of this tribunal, I can only speak of him and of his life from the standpoint of a member of the profession, of a practitioner before this tribunal, and from my observation of him and of his conduct as a public servant. And after all, perhaps, impressions gained by one not closely or intimately associated with another are more apt to be the impressions gained and held by the masses of the people and more apt to express the true light in which such person is considered by them. It is, therefore, from such an acquaintance and in the light of such impressions only that I shall attempt to voice my sentiments, and I believe the sentiment of all those who knew the deceased only as I knew him and who observed his character and his services only as I observed them.

The life of the late Justice KUHN can justly be held and considered as inseparably connected with and interwoven into the late history of this, his native State, and the light of his useful and exemplary life will ever shine as an incentive to the youth, an example to the man and a cherished memory to his friends.

While the Grim Reaper seems to have taken him from our midst in the prime of his young and useful manhood, his years of splendid service to his State and to its institutions mark his life as one of fervent constancy and candid loyalty to justice and to humanity.

Embarking on his chosen profession at the early age of twenty-two years, he successively and successfully served his county and his State for a quarter of a century, thus giving over one-third of his allotted span to public service.

A fondness for his profession, coupled with his keen natural sense of justice, seems to have molded each of his earlier public services into a basic preparation for higher and more noble ones, and thus it was that at a comparatively early age the Governor of his State entrusted unto him the high office of Attorney General, which trust was subsequently confirmed and continued by the electorate until the high official esteem in which he was so generally held prompted his appointment, by executive authority, as a member of the highest judicial tribunal of his Commonwealth, a position for which his earlier experience and services seemed to have so eminently prepared him.

As Attorney General of his State, his strict adherence to the law and his impartial faithfulness to his duty endeared him to his constituency and placed his name in the fore ranks of public servants. As a member of this Court his services were such as to command the highest respect of the profession and the highest confidence of the laity. The actions of Providence seem at times difficult to understand and frequently we criticize the hand of fate as unjust. But being mere mortals, it is not for us to understand or to conjecture as to the wisdom of fate. Yet how frequently it is true that from the grim solace of death there shines forth the brighter rays of the life which has passed. And thus, while we deeply regret the seeming untimely departure of the late Justice FRANZ C. KUHN, all in all, his life and his deeds go down into history, a compliment to American manhood, an honor to his profession, and a living satisfaction to the Judiciary.

Judge MOORE: Justice KUHN began his judicial life in Macomb county and that county will be represented upon this occasion by Circuit Judge NEIL E. REID and by City Attorney CLIFFORD A. JOHNS.

 Judge REID:
May it Please Your Honors:
In this court with the noble sentiments and the sympathetic utterances which have just been paid to the honor of Justice KUHN, I desire to add my tribute of personal praises and comments on his work.

A notable characteristic of Justice KUHN was his cordiality as a friend. It is not given to many of the human race to be able to have and entertain a cordial and friendly feeling to so many people as Justice KUHN was able to do. Justice KUHN in all of the activities of his life was fair even between his antagonists and it did not meet with his personal favor that any unkind word should be said to any person, and he was all his life opposed to all things partaking of unfair rancor. Justice KUHN was a wise counselor. He thought well and weighed well his words and gave to those who sought his advice the best of his ability. He was a truly magnanimous personality. It was not possible to meet and know Justice KUHN, as we in Macomb county met and knew him, without feeling the strength and power of his truly sympathetic feeling,— a truly wonderful man in this regard. Physically he was very prepossessing and agreeable in his friendliness. A person who met him always remembered him and bore him in mind in a distinct and impressive sort of way. He was, as has been said, truly successful as a politician and a business man. He had the ability to succeed. After Justice KUHN became judge of probate of Macomb county, I became better acquainted with him than I had before that time. The high regard in which he was held in that county during his incumbency was preceded by the time he spent in the prosecutor’s office. I was the court stenographer and had come in contact with him a great deal in that six-year period, and the people of Macomb county had him in so much regard that one person said to him at one time: “Judge, how is it that so many people vote for you and support you?” And Justice KUHN instantly replied: “Because I am right; I do the right thing.” Now that remark was not made in a boastful sort of way. That question instantly called from him an answer which revealed himself, because it was the intent and purpose of his life to do what was just and proper. Justice KUHN was right. We believe him to have been such. The people of Macomb county believed in him as such and they were ready and willing and did confer upon him the highest honors that a community could confer upon any man. He was just and upright as a judge. He was not a propagandist. He did not seek in the discharge of his duties as a judge to impress his personality upon anybody. I believe that it was his sincere ambition to give them the best consideration that a well trained mind could give them, render such judgment as the condition of the parties and the facts in the case required and warranted of him. He did that much and undertook to do no more and was satisfied with the result in his own mind.
Simply to do the right and just and fair thing. And so I say that he was a just and upright judge.

With him joy was duty and love was law. He had sincere love for his fellow beings. He simply desired to do his duty and in that he took his highest joy, as an artist may take joy in his work of art; as an architect may take joy in seeing the magnificent structure which his brain may have outlined and planned. So Justice KUHN took joy in the execution of the duties of his office, considering that to be his work of art, that he should fairly discharge the duty of his office. In that he took the simple joy and pride of his life. A gracious and mighty man has fallen and he honors himself who pays tribute and honor and homage to so great, so good, so lovable a man as Justice KUHN.

May it Please The Court:
It is indeed a great privilege to be permitted to appear before you this afternoon, as a young member of the Macomb county bar designated to add a word to what has already been expressed in resolution and address. A word of acknowledgment for valuable inspiration personally received from the life of Justice KUHN. It has been truly said that the best traditions of our Bar in Macomb county found their highest fruition in the career of FRANZ C. KUHN. The value of his services to the State are well known and recognized, and the presence here of very able and honorable men giving testimony of their regard for him must firmly establish his true position as deserving of all the honors he earned in public and private life.

At the zenith of his career,— Justice KUHN was but fifty-four years of age,—“God’s finger touched him and he slept.” Death came like an untimely frost upon a summer field, bearing away the shining mark it loves so, well. But, as the heavens glow long after the setting of the sun, so the skies of earth are illumined by the life of this splendid type of manhood.

Lawyer, Judge, citizen and friend— FRANZ C. KUHN stood in a class apart.

Other men have risen to high place by accident— Justice KUHN wrote his name high by virtue of a brilliant mind, tireless, energy, irreproachable character and uniform kindliness.

His friends are as numerous as the sands upon the sea and they mourn his passing, even though death be the “golden key that opens the palace of Eternity.”

Justice KUHN leaves to his family and to the State of Michigan the priceless heritage of a life well spent, of work well done. The story of his life adds lustre to the cities of Mt. Clemens and Detroit, to the county of Macomb, to the land of his fathers, to the name he bore; and his memory will live for aye.

Bowed in submission to a higher will, his friends must find consolation and comfort in the thought that He who notes the sparrow’s fall “doeth all things well.”

Judge MOORE:
One of the men who loved Justice KUHN was Justice WILLIAM L. CARPENTER:

 Judge CARPENTER spoke as follows:
Justice KUHN came to this Court directly from professional practice and without prior judicial experience, except such as he had as the probate judge of one of the smaller counties. His record here made, by a little more than seven years’ service, was an enviable one. He proved by that record that he was worthy and fit to be a Justice of this Court. In making this record he exceeded the expectations of the bar and of his most intimate friends. This is by no means unusual. It has happened many times. Indeed, I think it almost always happens that when a lawyer goes from practice directly to the bench of an appellate court, he makes a record that exceeds the expectations of the bar. This error of the bar is, in my judgment, due to the circumstance that we think such a judge will exhibit on the bench the same characteristics, and only the characteristics, exhibited by him in his professional practice, while the fact is the atmosphere of the Bench converts the lawyer, whose highest ambition has hitherto been to promote the cause of his clients, into a high-minded, conscientious Judge, whose highest ambition is to be faithful to his oath of office and to the cause of Justice.

This is indeed fortunate. If it were not so we would not have, and would not have had, an independent judiciary, and our American experiment in constitutional government, which makes the Judicial Department the keystone of the arch upon which that government is founded, would have been a failure.

After his short service in this Court, Justice KUHN voluntarily retired to engage in private business. If this action needs to be justified, that justification is afforded by the fact that his small judicial salary, augmented by the income from his savings, was inadequate for the maintenance of himself and family. After it was known that Justice KUHN had decided to resign and before he had made definite plans for his future, he was tendered the presidency of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company. Upon due deliberation he accepted that office and he spent the remaining years of his life in performing its arduous duties.

It has been often stated that judicial service makes a man unfit for the duties of a business executive. This statement is not universally true. This is proved by the business career of Justice KUHN, for he made a conspicuous success as the head of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company. This success was to a great extent due to the circumstance that he possessed, to a marked degree, real, practical, business capacity, broad vision, foresight, human sympathy, ability to form a correct judgment of men, to see things as they really are, to give proper but not undue weight to the opinion of others and to make wise decisions in all questions submitted to him, especially questions of business policy. He decided these questions of policy more wisely because he always gave due weight to public opinion, never forgetting that the service rendered by his company was a public service.

His business associates will testify that the fact that he always exhibited the high ideals and the conscientiousness of a judge sensibly contributed to his business success.

Substantially the entire life of Justice KUHN was devoted to the service of the public, for he served the public not only as a Justice of this Court and as the head of a great public utility organization, but in a variety of other important positions enumerated in the memorial resolutions that have just been read. This long career of usefulness entitles Justice KUHN to rank as one of Michigan’s foremost citizens.

Justice KUHN possessed an extraordinarily attractive and charming personality. This contributed in no small degree to his success as a Judge and to his business success and to his success in every other position he occupied and it made for him, too, friends in every class and in every rank of society.

Judge MOORE:
At the very earnest request of Mrs. Kuhn, Father DOUGLASS, who was one of Justice KUHN’ S most intimate friends, will address the Court:

I am not able to add anything to the record of the characteristics of the late Justice KUHN, and I do not speak, as some of you do, as one who had the privilege of knowing him many years. I met him socially a few weeks after my arrival in Detroit; this was less than two months before his death. But my acquaintance with him grew to be quite intimate, and, although it started in a social way, it soon became a spiritual relationship. Of course, I recognized in him the qualities that his friends had appreciated, but our intimacy grew, I am persuaded to think, because he felt that, as a Priest of the Anglican Church, I was able to do something for him which his friends could not do. I do not think that such relationships as ours are by accident, and I do feel that, late in April when we met, he had a feeling then of his physical weakness that made him inclined to develop our intimacy; in fact, I was able to see him after he had become confined when his business associates were not allowed in his room. So that when the last day of his life in this world came, I spent it with him, and, at the request of his wife, I administered Extreme Unction,—just as I would have done to one of my own flock; and I think it is in the record of the hospital in which he died that his death was peaceful and without agony, and one of the authorities described it as “miraculous.” I believe this to be due to the administration Holy Church had placed in my hands. And so I did not know Justice KUHN as a servant of this Commonwealth, or the head of a great corporation, but as a soul preparing to meet his GOD, and I wish to go on record on this great occasion as a friend of this man— to whom justice and righteousness were passions.

Judge MOORE: I should like to add a few words to all that has been said with reference to this dear man. I am glad that the Court is to have this very wonderful portrait painted at about the time Justice KUHN began his labors as a member of this Court. It was a beautiful housing of a great and delightful soul. It was not long after Justice KUHN came to the Bench that every associate upon that Bench loved him and that affection grew as the days went by. In 1911 we assembled in this court room to say words of respect in relation to that fine judge, Justice FRANK A. HOOKER. Justice KUHN was then Attorney General of the State and began his short address with these words:
“Death takes us unawares
And stays our hurrying feet,
The great design unfinished lies;
Our lives are incomplete.”

Justice KUHN dying at 54 years of age would seem to indicate that the words he said upon that day were fitting now.
I am getting to be an old man, I suppose many people will say I am an old man.

I have seen a long procession of my associates on this Bench come and do their work as best they could and go into the infinite beyond: LONG, HOOKER, MONTGOMERY, GRANT, MCALVAY, BLAIR, OSTRANDER, PERSON, BROOKE, STONE and now FRANZ CHRISTIAN KUHN. With the seven present members of this Court who were associated with me, and my dear friend, Judge WILLIAM L. CARPENTER, who addressed the Court a few moments ago, it has been a great experience. It has been a delightful life and I am glad to have had it.

All of the words of respect and affection and love which have been uttered here today were well deserved by Justice KUHN, and I am sure the sympathy of all of us goes out to his life partner and the other members of his family in their bereavement and to them we extend our profound sympathy.

 Justice FELLOWS spoke as follows:
FRANZ C. KUHN was appointed a member of this Court on the 6th day of September, 1912. At the succeeding November election he was elected to fill the unexpired term of the late Justice BLAIR and in April, 1917, was re-elected for a full term. His resignation as a member of this Court took effect December 30, 1919. He served as a member of this Court something over seven years. It was my privilege to serve with him during three years of this period. He was then in vigorous manhood, an incessant worker, tireless in his search for the correct rule of law applicable to the case in hand. His opinions running through 37 volumes of our Reports were well reasoned, clearly stated and seldom failed to receive the approval of his associates. He was an able judge. While strong in his convictions, he was always ready to listen to the other viewpoint and the arguments advanced in its support. He was always just.

Around the consultation table he was helpful and in comradeship with his associates he was one of the most companionable men I ever knew. He loved his associates and was beloved by them. No one who was present at the last conference he attended as a member of this Court will ever forget the occasion. After the work was over he tried to tell us in a voice choked with emotion how much the close friendship of the members of this Court meant to him, and finally breaking down completely and with tears streaming down his face he said good-bye and severed his connection with this Court. The words of Chief Justice HOOKER on a similar occasion are most applicable here. He said:
“We are here to pay a loving tribute to one of the warmest and truest hearts that it is the fortune of man to meet,—a melancholy privilege, from which we instinctively shrink, and for which we as instinctively yearn, with a feeling akin to that of one who looks upon the cold face of a venerated father. He would turn away in sorrow, but a force, before unknown, impels him to linger, and return again and yet again. So it is with our deceased brother, of whom we today take our official leave, by consigning his well-earned fame to the mausoleum of our records and Reports, there to be preserved and perpetuated with those of his predecessors, and his portrait to a place upon our walls, where it will look down upon the scene of his labors and the friends of other days. But it is in the innermost recesses of our hearts that his living memory will be embalmed.”

Chief Justice BIRD: The portrait will be assigned a place upon the walls of this court room, and the memorials which have been presented and the words of appreciation which have been spoken will be made records of this Court and will be published in the Reports. In token of respect the Court will adjourn until 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.