Memoriam/Portrait Presentation Of The Honorable Charles A. Blair

January 20, 1913

Court convened at 2 p.m., January 20, 1913, for memorial services relating to the late Justice CHARLES A. BLAIR. The Chief Justice announced that the court was ready to entertain any matter presented in that connection.

  Mr. HARRY SILSBEE, of Lansing, presented the following resolutions of the State Bar Association, adopted at the twenty-second annual meeting, held at Saginaw, September 4th and 5th, 1912, and, with appropriate remarks, moved that they be made part of the records of the court:

CHARLES A. BLAIR was born at Jackson, Jackson county, Michigan, April 10, 1854, of Scotch descent. His father was AUSTIN BLAIR, the famous “war governor” of Michigan. Mr. BLAIR was graduated from the Jackson high school in June, 1872, and from the literary department of the University of Michigan in June, 1876. He studied law in his father’s office and was admitted to practice September 5, 1878. He was prosecuting attorney of Jackson county, besides holding several minor offices. He was married October 8, 1879, to Miss EFFIE C. NORTH, and besides his widow, two children, GEORGE F. and HELEN MARIE, survive him.

Mr. BLAIR was elected to the office of attorney general November 4, 1902, and was the unanimous choice of the Republican State convention, held at Detroit, June 30, 1904, for the second term nomination to that office. Mr. BLAIR’S name was placed before the judicial convention at Saginaw September 8, 1904, as a candidate for Justice of the Supreme Court, and he was nominated for the five year term. He withdrew his name as a candidate for attorney-general, and was elected to the Supreme bench by a vote of 343,659 to 155,473 for ALLEN C. ADSIT, and 7,835 for JOHN D. HUNT. At the Republican State convention held at Grand Rapids, February 12, 1909, Justice BLAIR was the unanimous choice of the convention for the nomination to succeed himself, and was elected April 5, 1909, by a plurality of 136,837. Justice BLAIR was Chief Justice during the year 1909.

As a lawyer and judge, Justice BLAIR ranked very high with the profession. His opinions in the Supreme Court, beginning with the January term, 1905, bear evidence of his great learning, industry, and painstaking efforts to get at the right and truth of the controversy in which an opinion was written.

He was a man of pleasing personality, which made it easy to approach him, and, once his confidence was won, his charm of manner soon endeared him to those who had the privilege of meeting him off the bench.

This same charm of manner has often proved an inspiration to the members of the bar who argued their cases before him. Strong of character, mild of temperament, he endeared himself to all who met and grew to know him.

That he was a just, fearless, and upright judge, no one can gainsay.

In his untimely taking away, the great court of which he was an honorable member, his professional brethren at the bar, the State of Michigan, and his loved ones, have suffered an irreparable loss.

In sorrow, we herewith bear testimony to the worth of the man, of whom it may well be said, “The world has become better because of his having lived in it.”

Resolved, That these resolutions be presented to the Supreme Court with the request that they be spread upon its records; and,

Resolved Further, That we extend to his sorrowing family our deepest sympathy in this, their hour of great affliction, and that a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to them.

Judge C. P. BLACK, of the Ingham County Bar Association, addressed the court as fol1ows:

May it Please Your Honors:

Justice BLAIR, during the last years of his life, was a resident of Ingham county, and the bar of that county naturally came to know him very intimately, and his sterling worth, not only as an official, but as a citizen, and so the president of the Ingham County Bar Association, immediately upon his death, convened such bar which appointed a committee to consider and report suitable memorial resolutions to be presented to the circuit court of said county and this court, to be spread upon and made part of the records of such courts. This committee reported to said bar association the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted by such Association, and I am directed to present the same to your Honors on this occasion :

Justice CHARLES A. BLAIR, of the Supreme Court of Michigan, died at his home in the city of Lansing on Friday, the 30th day of August, 1912.

Judge BLAIR was born at Jackson, Jackson county, Michigan, April 10, 1854. He was a son of AUSTIN BLAIR, the war governor of this State, from whom he inherited the sturdy fiber of the Scotch race. He was graduated from the public schools of Jackson in 1872, and from the literary department of the Michigan University in June, 1876. He studied law with his father and was admitted to practice September 5, 1878. He was elected to the office of prosecuting attorney of Jackson county while still a young man, and discharged the duties of such office with credit. He was married October 8, 1879, to Miss EFFIE C. NORTH. Two children were born to him as the issue of such marriage, GEORGE F., and HELEN MARIE, who, with his widow, survive him.

At the general election November 4, 1902, he was elected attorney general of Michigan, and during his term of office rendered signal service to the people in upholding the law for just and equitable taxation. His ability and zeal in this important litigation secured for him a unanimous renomination for that office in June, 1904. But the people of the State were not content that he should continue as attorney general; they desired his services in a higher public trust, and in September of the same year he was honored by his party with a nomination to the office of Justice of the Supreme Court. This nomination came to him as a spontaneous reward for his fidelity to the interest of the masses. He was elected to such office by an overwhelming majority, and was renominated and reelected on April 5, 1909.

Justice BLAIR was universally respected by the bar of the State. His very presence upon the bench was a source of inspiration to every lawyer who appeared before the court. His opinions show that he gave great care to the examination of the record and questions involved. His mind was pre-eminently judicial, but was always guided by a generous heart toward humanity. In all acts as a judge he seemed to remember that government is instituted, amongst other things, to protect the weak from the strong. And that courts constitute a part of that government. He exalted respect for the court by so administering the law that all parties and classes named him as their own. He held the scales of justice with a steady and even hand for all, and today from every part of the Commonwealth is heard “Justice Blair was an able, conscientious, upright, just judge, beloved by all the people.” As a husband, father, citizen, lawyer, and judge he “discharged aright the simple dues with which each day was rife.” While yet in the prime of manhood he was called hence, before “a perfect scheme of action had been devised,” but, “he obeyed when conscience cried, and lives though dead.”

As lawyers of Ingham county, we mourn his loss and deeply sympathize with the bereaved widow and children. To the court which he graced and honored, we respect fully submit our condolence for its great loss. Be it therefore
Resolved, by the Bar of Ingham county, that the circuit court of said county be moved that the foregoing be spread upon the Journal of said court, and that a copy of the same be also presented to the Supreme Court of the State with a like request;

Further, That an engrossed copy thereof be presented to the widow of Justice BLAIR.

Mr. BLACK, continuing, said:

May it Please Your Honors:

These resolutions fully express my feelings upon this sad occasion, and I will add no further words thereto.

Mr. THOMAS E. BRAKWORTH, of Jackson, presented the following resolutions of the Jackson County Bar, moving that they be made a part of the records of the court; and also, in that connection, presented a portrait of Justice BLAIR from the bar of the State, and with appropriate remarks requested that it be accepted and hung permanently among the pictures of the judges upon the wall of the court room :

It was with widespread, sober, sincere regret that the citizens of this great Commonwealth learned of the death of CHARLES A. BLAIR. To us, of the Jackson bar, who knew him so well, there remains, beyond this, the sense of a distinct personal loss of the friendship of a real man.

To the finite mind it is not given to understand why such a man should be taken from us in the very prime of his highest usefulness. Judge BLAIR had been called to the exacting and arduous duties of the highest judicial forum of the State, and so earnestly and conscientiously had he labored in the discharge of those duties that he had come to be recognized as one of the strong, able members of that body.

Judge BLAIR was, first of all, a genuine man, simple and sincere, kindly and courteous; by nature a gentleman in the larger sense of the word; by training a scholar, and by disposition a student, not only of his chosen profession, but in the wider fields of general human endeavor. As a lawyer and judge he was not only possessed of a broad knowledge of the great principles of the law, but he had the marked ability to apply those principles to the solution of the everyday affairs of life with a keen, analytical, yet practical mind. On the technical side of the profession he belonged to the old school of careful, accurate pleading. On the forensic side, he was an able advocate. Physically large, with a strong, manly countenance, his whole bearing was that of quiet dignity. His rich, deep speaking voice, imbued with the earnestness which betokens conviction, was admirably adapted to set off to the full his pure diction, enriched by his intimate acquaintance with the beauty and imagery of the classic languages. Yet, withal, Judge BLAIR was a refreshingly modest man in these days of prevalent blatant self esteem. His advancement in political life came to him primarily through his own real worth and secondarily through the earnest, unselfish efforts of his legion of friends to secure for him a fit recognition of his talents.

Notwithstanding the futility of words at such a time to express the feelings of the heart, we, as his brother lawyers, yet desire to show this tribute, slight and insufficient though it be, to the memory of our friend, CHARLES A. BLAIR, and it is our wish that it be communicated to his wife and family, together with our sincere sympathy in their sorrow.

Respectfully submitted,
Charles E. Townsend,
Benjamin Williams,
T. E. Barkworth,

Mr. BARKWORTH further spoke as follows:

May it Please the Court:

Seldom, if ever, has the death of an individual not a member of my immediate family, so shocked me as did the unexpected death of Judge BLAIR. But a few days before, I had received from him a letter in terms of confident hopefulness, and a message reporting his return to Lansing seemed to assure a renewal of his usefulness. But it was not to be. If it seems untimely, we can trust the Infinite plan to bring it out all right in the end.

I had the good fortune to be for a long period intimately acquainted with Judge BLAIR. In the practice of our profession, we were practically contemporaneous, for, while I was admitted to the bar in 1877, I did not begin my practice in the city of Jackson until 1878, the year of his admission. We speedily became friends, and that friendship continued uninterruptedly through life, not even the asperities born of professional conflict interfering with its constancy.

For two years we were associated together as partners. The dissolution of the firm was not occasioned either by want of congeniality or profitable result, but because of an unselfish obligation assumed by Mr. BLAIR at the instance of his honored father. This rendered necessary the separation. One of the compensations of advancing years is recalling the memories of our agreeable contact with our fellows in the past; and I recall with pleasure this experience. Of a number of gentlemen who maintained the same relation at one time or another with Mr. BLAIR, some are dead, one out of the country, and the remainder out of the State, so that I am the only one available to pay this tribute of respect.

Whether in the office or the court room, he was a worthy and valuable associate. His mental processes were direct, frank, and independent. I do not recall many who, even in the discussion of political matters, were so free from prejudice and so ready to recognize the other side of the question. He was progressive, some times even strenuous, in the positions he took upon public questions, but always with a wise conservatism which endeavored to avoid danger. These qualities gave him strength and made him friends both in his personal and political relations. Before his elevation to the bench, he filled other offices with credit, and since being a member of this court he has maintained with dignity the best traditions of a body which has always been a potent force for the conservation of republican institutions in our State.

In his practice he was fair and considerate; his arguments were scholarly, logical, and instructive. In every relation of life he was a man.

Since arriving at the court room, the pleasant duty has been assigned me of presenting to the court, on behalf of the bar of the State, this magnificent portrait.

The artist has produced a wonderful likeness. Not only does it depict the features of our friend, but it discloses to the observer some of the mental and moral characteristics which made his life a success. Thoughtfulness, stability, and reserve strength, are shown in the pose and features of the painting, and the artist is to be congratulated upon what he has achieved in it.

In behalf of the bar of the State, I request that it may be accepted by the court to adorn the walls of this room, in company with those of so many of his predecessors upon the bench who have in times past graced this tribunal.

The Honorable GRANT FELLOWS, Attorney General, addressed the court as follows:

May it Please the Court:

It was my good fortune to know CHARLES A. BLAIR for upwards of 20 years. I knew him while he was engaged in the practice of his profession as a member of the Jackson County Bar. I knew him as the attorney general of the State, and I knew him as a member of this court. As a member of the bar, he enjoyed the confidence of his brethren of the bar and the community in which he lived; as the attorney general of the State, he commanded the respect of all the people, not only those of his own political faith, but of men who differed from him politically, and those who crossed swords with him when he appeared to defend the interests of the State; as a member of this court he was loved and respected by his associates, honored and esteemed by the people of the entire Commonwealth. He brought to this bench a ripened experience, a thorough knowledge of the law, a patience~ possessed by few men, a willingness to work, an apparently strong physique, a high sense of the duties he assumed, and the kindliness of heart that in his every walk of life had endeared him to his friends and associates. We, in our weak wisdom cannot help but feel that he has been called away all too soon, long before the allotted span of life, but at this time we bow our heads to the decree of a Higher Court and say, “Thy will, not ours, be done.” His memory will be cherished by those who knew him best, and his opinions will be quoted and read with profit by the present and future generations, and his life is left as a guide for those who believe that the profession he chose as a life work furnished a vehicle for much good in the world. Those who knew him were better through their associations with him; the world was better for the few brief years he lived in it. His memory will last as long as friends live, and his work on this bench will stand as a monument to his learning, his honesty, and his untiring labor.

Chief Justice STEERE then said :

Of those associated with the late Justice Blair during the entire time he was a member of this court but three remain, Justices MOORE, MCALVAY, and OSTRANDER. Justice OSTRANDER will respond for the court.

Justice OSTRANDER spoke as follows:

An adequate appreciation of the character, life and services of Mr. Justice BLAIR cannot be expressed in few words, and must be left to a more fitting occasion. There can be appropriately added, to what has been so eloquently and truthfully said at the bar, a brief statement of some impressions of his character, and of the mental and moral forces which controlled him, received by those who were engaged with him in judicial labors.

A reserved man, unostentatious, with simple habits, possessed of a fine moral sense, with a knowledge of and respect for the best traditions of his profession, poor in purse and contented to be so, hating all sham and hypocrisy, with physical powers which had never failed him, he was especially equipped for service upon the bench.

A university training, wide reading, accurate knowledge covering a broad range of subjects, and 27 years of active practice at the bar, had stored and disciplined his mind. Honest intellectual processes, industriously exercised, gave integrity to his conclusions. Being so equipped, and so intellectually and morally constituted, he brought to the performance of the duties of a judge a keen sense of the responsibilities of the position and a purpose to do at all times what it becometh a judge to do.

His intellectual equipment would have excused some arrogance in council; but he was modest, heard argument without impatience, gave, and demanded, reasons for conclusions. He had no pride of opinion, for opinion’s sake, but was very steadfast in conclusions which he had tested to his own satisfaction. Such a man exercises a distinct and continuing influence upon his fellows, and impresses himself upon society, not only as the result of his special work, but generally, and in unrecognized ways.

It is needless to say that the ability and the helpfulness of Justice Blair were recognized and appreciated by the members of this court, each of whom came to greatly respect him, and, as his amiable qualities became apparent, to love him. The opinions he wrote will be found in 31 volumes of the Reports of this court, and are the public, visible, evidence of his ability and of his labors as a judge. By this evidence, history will judge him. I wish, for the members of the court who served with him, to add to this evidence, in the poor words at my command, the testimony of memory of his devotion to duty, his helpfulness in council, his upstanding fearlessness and honesty, his quiet dignity and uniform kindness.

CHIEF JUSTICE STEERE: While I can add nothing to what has already been so appropriately and truthfully said relative to the public service of Justice BLAIR, before closing these exercises I desire to add just a few words of tribute to the memory of an old classmate and life-long friend.

It was my fortune to be somewhat closely associated with Justice BLAIR when he was preparing for his life work as a student in the University, and again, years after, just before he laid his burdens down.

Those who knew Justice BLAIR best, know best that whatever of public preferments, honor, and esteem came to him, came through no self-assertion or aggressive claim to recognition on his part, but in natural recognition of his marked ability, innate integrity, and keen sense to discern what was right and legal in the final analysis of questions presented.
While he undoubtedly appreciated the confidence placed in him by others, and understood his own worth, he was singularly free from the slightest manifestation of egotism, and rarely spoke of himself apart from the work in which he was engaged. He was peculiarly unselfish, unassuming, and modest almost to diffidence. Those were characteristics of his earlier manhood as well as his maturer years. His classmates at the University knew him as a kindly, quiet, pleasant, and unassuming comrade, but a natural and apt student of exceptional ability, easily ranking with leaders in the classroom, and particularly proficient in the classics, and withal making no pretensions to superiority, apparently unmindful that he excelled in any particular.

As a college student he was loyal to and fond of his friends, devoted to his studies, and, whatever interruptions and diversions intervened (and they were many) he was always a good student, well prepared with his work, and graduated with high honors in his class.

Through the many intervening years I saw him but seldom until the last few months preceding the close of his life. It was a pleasure to note that those marked mental characteristics and the more noble and generous qualities of his earlier days had remained with him and developed. He had the same studious habits, and quiet, unassuming, kindly personality, but had ripened into a scholar of broad culture and learned in his profession, at the same time developing into a man of strong convictions and progressive ideas. Though considerate of others’ views, helpful and yielding in what he regarded as nonessentials, he was firm and uncompromising against any proposition which he thought or feared tended in any way to infringe rights secured to the people by the constitution and laws of the country.

His personal friends and associates will best remember and most miss and mourn him for his kindly fellowship, loyalty to his friends, and devotion to duty. As a striking instance of the latter, I note that when, but a short time before his death, I visited him at his summer cottage in the north where he had gone in search of the good health he once enjoyed there, and had lost forever, as it resulted, though sadly stricken he was yet brave and hopeful; his thoughts and talk were not of himself or his afflictions but of others and other things—of his associates, of the work of the court, and of his own duties in connection with it, which he was anxious to resume. In those things he was faithful unto death. It is no extravagance of eulogy to say of him that this Commonwealth never had a truer, more conscientious and faithful servant, nor one who in the performance of the duties of his office, more constantly and firmly stood for the right as he saw it.

In behalf of the court it is a gratification to receive and accept this strikingly natural and elegant portrait of our former associate, so thoughtfully and fittingly presented by the bar of this State, and to respond with appreciation and sincere approval to all that has been said in its presentation.

The memorials which have been offered and the encomiums pronounced here, so far as available, will be made records of this court and published in its Reports.