Presentation Of The Portrait Of The Honorable Harry S. Toy

JUNE 4, 1957

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN R. DETHMERS: The Court is to be favored this morning by the presentation of a portrait of the late HARRY S. TOY, onetime Justice of this Court. Speaking on behalf of the State Bar of Michigan is its President, the Honorable John W. Cummiskey.

 HON. JOHN W. CUMMISKEY: May it please the Court. I am privileged on behalf of the State Bar of Michigan to participate in this ceremony honoring a distinguished former Justice of this Court. On an occasion such as this it is always timely to ask: “What do our citizens expect from a man whom they have asked to wear the plain black robe of justice?” His work is difficult. People talk to him–arguers all; attackers and defenders each believing that he alone is right. Feelings may run high, voices may be raised, tempers may be lost, manners may be forgotten–but not by the Judge. He is a soother of tempers, a referee among fighters, a cool guardian of the rules. He is the protector of both sides and the partisan of neither. Both side’s hope to sway him, and hope even more that he cannot be swayed. Above all, he is the guardian of our freedoms. Such, I submit, is a Justice; and such a Justice was HARRY S. TOY.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN R. DETHMERS: Appearing on behalf of the family of Justice HARRY S. TOY for the purpose of making the presentation is the Honorable W. McKay Skillman of the Recorder’s Court of Detroit.

 HON. W. MCKAY SKILLMAN: Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the Court, President of the State Bar of Michigan, and friends assembled. I feel that I have been highly honored by being chosen to present to this Honorable Court, on behalf of the family of Justice Toy, this excellent portrait done in oil by one of Michigan’s most renowned artists, Mr. Roy Gamble. It was my fortunate privilege to be one of Justice Toy’s closest friends, a friendship which existed for upwards of 40 years. When Mrs. Toy invited me to represent her and her son. James, and his family, at this ceremony, I eagerly accepted the assignment because I was quite sure that Harry would have wished me to do so. I do not propose to burden you with a long recital of our years of friendship, dating from the time Justice TOY entered the Army during World War I, our association together as fellow assistant prosecutors after we both returned from the service, and our subsequent mutual undertaking of a political nature which culminated in his election as prosecuting attorney of Wayne county, and later as attorney general of this State.

Justice TOY was born at Elkhorn, West Virginia, in 1892, spent his youth in Pennsylvania, came to Detroit in 1910, and entered the Detroit College of Law the same year. Working his way through law school, he graduated in 1913 and was at once admitted to the practice of the law, serving his internship in various law offices in Detroit.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I he entered the officer’s training school at Fort Sheridan, where he was commissioned a first lieutenant, and was ordered overseas in December of 1917. He became a captain in the 144th Machine Gun Company and was wounded in action 3 times and gassed once. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government.

Upon his return from the service HARRY S. TOY was appointed an assistant prosecuting attorney of Wayne county where he served until he resigned to enter private practice in 1923. He was elected prosecuting attorney of Wayne county in 1930, and re-elected in 1932 when he was the only Republican in the county to survive the Democratic landslide of that year. He was elected attorney general in 1934 and served until October of 1935 when he was elevated to the Bench of this Court. Here he served until 1937. His only other public office was that of police commissioner of Detroit which office he held from 1947 to 1950. Justice TOY passed away in 1955.

HARRY S. TOY was a man of unusual talents and of a distinguished career. I perhaps knew him best as a trial lawyer and as a conscientious, devoted, public servant. He was without a peer as an advocate in the days when able advocates were much more numerous than they now are. I know, from personal experience, of his ability as an advocate because he frequently sat opposite me at the counsel table, and many times he appeared before me as a private practitioner, as prosecuting attorney, and as attorney general. As a private practitioner he was dedicated to the interests of his client, giving him the best of his talents—frequently without a fee if his client was unable to pay and if he though the client’s cause was just.

Justice TOY’S public service as an advocate occurred at a period of time in our State’s history when lawlessness was widespread, crime was rampant, and in many quarters devotion to public duty was not too common. In this present day and age of comparatively well-ordered society, it is perhaps difficult to visualize the days of the bootlegger and rum runner, the. high. jackers, the kidnappers, the gamblers, and the robbers. The lawless element of our population had practically declared war upon society, and it was Justice TOY as prosecutor and as attorney general who accepted the gage of battle on behalf of the public. In his first campaign for prosecuting attorney these forces of lawlessness had unlimited means at their disposal to defeat him, most of which was contributed by enemies of society, but they were unsuccessful in their efforts because the public became aroused and voted him into office by a large majority. He did not disappoint the public and soon demonstrated that the promises he made were meant to be fulfilled. These criminals soon felt the sting of his sword. Threats of personal harm were often made to him and for months on end he had police protection at his home and during his travels about the county. But these threats did not deter him.

A recital of the famous cases which he tried, or which were tried under his direction as prosecuting attorney or attorney general, would fill a fair-sized book. To mention a few–the famous Purple Gang trials which resulted in the imprisonment of this notorious gang of murderers who had terrorized the public for so long. Also, the then famous recount case in which a conspiracy was entered into to steal an election and to thwart the will of a majority of the electors, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of the conspirators. His reputation for strict law enforcement became so well known that all commercialized gambling in the State immediately ceased as soon as he became attorney general, and gambling houses remained closed as long as he held that office.

Any vigorous, outspoken and resourceful public official who devotes his energies to thwarting the efforts of the enemies of society is sure to arouse the enmity of many persons, some in high places, and Justice TOY was no exception. He had his share of detractors and critics. However, his record of accomplishments in public office vastly outweighed any mistakes he may have inadvertently made.

The public is too often prone to accept the services of a fighter in its behalf as something to be expected, and it seldom accords to such a person the credit that is his due. On an occasion such as the present one, when a former member of this high Court is being signally honored by having his portrait adorn the walls of this venerable place along with those of many other illustrious former Justices, it does not seem to me to be amiss to point out the solid background, as well as the sterling character of this Justice. This background he took with him when he ascended the Bench of this high Court, and can account for a great deal of his continued devotion to duty as a member of this Court. He was proud of his membership on the Bench of this Court and was ever ready to defend it, not only while a member but, likewise, during the remainder of his days.

Mr. Chief Justice, I deem it a high privilege to be permitted to appear before this Court and to present to the Court, on behalf of Justice TOY’ S family, this portrait of Justice TOY.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN R. DETHMERS: Thank you Judge Skillman. The artist will unveil the portrait. (Unveiling by artist, assisted by a very young lady.) Would you state by whom you were assisted?

MR. ROY GAMBLE: That is Margaret Toy, the granddaughter of Justice TOY.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN R. DETHMERS: There remains on this Court one Justice who sat here during the period when Justice TOY sat with him as an Associate, and on behalf of this Court he will make the remarks of acceptance.
Justice SHARPE.

 HON. EDWARD M. SHARPE: Mr. Chief Justice, I appreciate I the privilege of speaking for the Court on this occasion. It so happens that I am the only member of the present Court who was a member when Justice TOY was a member of this Court. He came to us from the attorney general’s office by appointment of Governor Fitzgerald. His service as a member of this Court was not a long time, about 15 months, but during that period of service he impressed all of us with his sincerity, ability, and willingness to shoulder his share of the work of the Court. Since his retirement from the Court, Justice TOY has appeared before us upon many occasions and in every instance he came prepared to argue his cause with clarity and forcefulness, as well as with a well-written brief.

In his passing the State has lost a valuable public official, the courts have lost a dependable advocate, and his family has lost a loving husband and father. And so, on behalf of the Court, we gratefully and graciously accept this portrait of the late Justice HARRY S. TOY.