In Memoriam Honorable Thomas R. Sherwood

JANUARY 25, 1898

At the opening of court on Tuesday, January 25, 1898, Mr. DALLAS BOUDEMAN presented to the court the following memorial of the Kalamazoo County Bar on the death of the Honorable THOMAS R. SHERWOOD, formerly one of the justices of the court:

The committee heretofore appointed by the bar of Kalamazoo county to prepare and submit a suitable memorial to our deceased brother, THOMAS R. SHERWOOD, respectfully present the following:

On the 28th day of March, A. D. 1896, the Honorable THOMAS R. SHERWOOD departed this life, at Chicago, Illinois. Judge SHERWOOD was born at Pleasant Valley, Ulster county, New York, on March 28, 1827. He was admitted to the bar at Rochester, New York, in 1851. He removed to Kalamazoo in 1852, where he made it his home as long as he was in the active work of life, and until disease prevented him from further pursuing his labors. He was elected as a member of the Supreme Court in 1833, and served in that capacity, with honor to himself and the State, until the close of his term, December 31, 1889.

His ancestors were Quakers. His early years were spent upon the farm. He for several years attended the Macedon Center and Canandaigua academies, where he received a thorough education. He was eminently a self-made man, and rose to the distinction which he attained by his energy, honesty, industry, and good common-sense. By his life he has well proven that there is no royal road to greatness. He has fully illustrated the fact that true worth is of more value, and will be more surely appreciated, than the fiction of hereditary title.

As a practicing attorney, he was careful and diligent, and ever faithful to the cause of his client. As a citizen, he lived a life of purity, uprightness, and honor, and acquired the esteem of all of his acquaintances. As a judge, he gained the respect and confidence of the bar of the State by his painstaking and conscientious labors, his eminent abilities, his courteous manner, and frankness of heart.

When the useful life of an associate is closed, and its friendship, which has cheered and encouraged us in our experiences and struggles, has been withdrawn, we would fain do more in honor of the departed than human words can express. Loving and respecting the memory of our deceased brother, commending his example and his virtues to those yet in the active practice, and to those who are to follow in our footsteps in the years to come, the bar of Kalamazoo county present this memorial, to give expression to our regard and affection for him, and of our regret at his departure from us; and we suggest that copies hereof be presented to the circuit court for the county of Kalamazoo and to the Supreme Court of the State, for such action as shall seem most appropriate.

All of which we respectfully submit.

KALAMAZOO, April 5, 1897.

 MR. BOUDEMAN spoke as follows: May it Please the Court:

The duty has been assigned to me by the bar of Kalamazoo county to present to this court, and ask to have spread upon its records, a memorial to the Honorable THOMAS R. SHERWOOD, deceased.

From 1852 Judge SHERWOOD was a member of the Kalamazoo County Bar. From 1883 to January 1, 1890, he was a member of this court. During all the years while he resided in this State he was a man of prominence as a lawyer, and was an honored citizen of our Commonwealth. He was one who gained the standing which he attained by faithful and earnest work, and belonged to that class of pioneers which has done so much toward the advancement and substantial development of our great State, materially, morally, and intellectually. While he would not be classes as a genius, yet in many respects he was an extraordinary man. While in actual practice he was particularly noted for his energy and industry. The troubles of his clients were his afflictions. Their rights were most sacred to him at all times. No labor was so burdensome, no sacrifice so great, as to deter him from presenting their claims as he believed them legitimately to exist. The amount of labor which he is known to have performed in the preparation and trial of his cases was that which few men could have endured. He was always true to his clients’ interests, and no one has ever for a moment complained of any neglect of duty on his part.

Then, again, he was of a most kindly disposition. His heart was always in sympathy with the down-trodden and unfortunate. He was ever ready to extend a helping hand to those in distress and need. Having himself arisen from humble surroundings, he was the better able than he otherwise would have been to judge of the wants of that great class which must always needs rely upon its fellow men for counsel and assistance.

Of his work as a judge of this court, those who have served with him, some of whom yet survive, are the best able to testify. To the members of the bar of the State, his labors as one of the justices were most satisfactory. When he was through with the examination of a case, those interested knew that he had given it honest and faithful consideration. He carried into his work on this bench the same industry and energy which had always marked his career; and, although it may have been necessary that he should occupy more hours to accomplish his task than was required to be used by other members, yet I do not think it will be found that any of his associates ever complained that he did not do his full share. In my humble judgment, the excessive labor which Judge SHERWOOD put upon himself while a member of the Supreme Court of this State had much to do with the unfortunate condition in which he found himself during the last few years of his life. He had overtaxed his energies; he had overburdened his mental faculties, and had weakened his body; and he was obliged to suffer the penalty which the great law of nature imposes upon the human race. His sacrifice was a noble one, and made in a noble cause, and one which few have the bravery to make.

When there is taken from our midst such a man as this, we feel that we would fain change the laws which govern us, so that we might longer enjoy such companionships, however so well we may know that this cannot be done. By the study of such a life as his, we learn to know that it is not the office which a man may hold, not the ability which he may have, not the influence which he may exert, nor the material riches which he may accumulate, which commend him to our attention, but it is the fact that he possesses the elements of true manhood. When men’s lives are reviewed, it is the nobility of character that we well conclude is the basis of all that is truly great in them. It is the possession of such a character that raises a person’s associates to a higher plane of action, warms the cold, uncharitable world around us, and, consciously or unconsciously, influences all to live purer lives. It is because Judge SHERWOOD possessed the elements of a noble manhood that he has endeared himself to us; and it is but a small mark of the honor which is due him, and the respect which we have for him, that we spread upon the records of the court this brief memorial.
I ask your honors, in behalf of the local bar which I represent, and I may take the liberty, I think, to request in behalf of the bar of the whole State, that the memorial which has been presented be accepted by this court, and spread at large upon its records, and published in the Reports of its proceedings.

 CHIEF JUSTICE GRANT responded as follows: Gentlemen of the Bar:

Of the justices of this court prior to its re-organization under the Constitution of 1850 and the act of 1857, four are living: GREEN, DOUGLASS, TURNER, and GRAVES. Of these justices, GREEN has lived more than four-score and ten years, and each of the others more than fourscore years. Of those who have occupied seats upon this bench since the court was re-organized, January 1, 1858, MARTIN, MANNING, CHRISTIANCY, CAMPBELL, MARSTON, and SHERWOOD have passed to that eternal country which we, the living, know only by faith and hope. The lives of these men represent valuable services rendered to their State and Country, and are full of rich material for the study and emulation of those who now are, or who may hereafter be, engaged in the practice of a most honorable profession, or who now occupy, or may hereafter occupy, judicial positions. Their portraits hang upon the walls of this court-room, and are a constant reminder to both bench and bar that favoritism, partisanship, prejudice, public clamor, and corruption have no place in the halls of justice. The lives, character, and decisions of these jurists inspired the people with confidence that their liberties and rights of person and property were safe in the hands of their constitutional arbiters.

Of this number was the deceased, Judge SHERWOOD. It was not my good fortune to know him personally. I never met him but twice. I have often heard his associates upon the bench speak of him as an exceedingly laborious and painstaking judge. To say that he was brilliant and pre-eminent in ability and legal learning, would be fulsome praise, unjust to the dead and discreditable to the living. But, what is of far more consequence to his countrymen and his friends, he earned the reputation of an honest, incorruptible, just, and good judge. It is eminently proper that the bench and bar should make a lasting record of their appreciation of his character and services. The resolutions which you have presented will therefore be received, and spread at large upon the journal of this court, and an engrossed copy sent to his relatives.