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Faculty Portraits

James Valentine Campbell
The Michigan Alumnus 242-243

James Valentine Campbell
Faculty Portraits XI

Judge James Valentine Campbell
 was born in Buffalo in the State of 
New York on the 25th day of February, 1823, and his sixty-seventh
 year had just closed when he died in 
the City of Detroit on the 26th day 
of March, 1890.

His whole life, with the exception 
of three years, was lived in the State 
of Michigan and almost all of his 
adult life was spent in the service of 
the state.

Graduated from college at eighteen, 
 he at once commenced the study of 
law and was admitted to the bar in
1844. At the age of thirty-four he
 was chosen one of the Justices of the
 Supreme Court of his state, then just
 reorganized. He served in this office
 through successive reelections until
 his death, a period of thirty-two years. 
 His term of service exceeded in years
 that of any other incumbent of this
 high office. 

He came to the bench in Michigan
 at an opportune time. The foundations of the jurisprudence of the state
 were being laid and he brought to 
his portion of this most important task 
remarkable intellectual powers, well 
trained, a judicial temperament, and 
righteousness almost without a flaw.

Serving with such eminent jurists 
as Cooley and Christiancy and Graves 
it is not too much to say that he was 
the peer of any and surpassed by none 
in those qualities which go to make 
the great judge. To no one does the
 State of Michigan owe more for the 
exalted reputation of its highest ju
dicial tribunal during the time he was 
a member of it.

But Judge Campbell not only did 
foundation work in the juris prudence of Michigan as a member of its Su
preme Court, but almost contempor
aneously with the organization of that 
tribunal there was organized as a part
 of the University, the Department of
 Law, and Judge Campbell was in
1859 chosen a member of its first
 Faculty and elected its Dean. He
 continued his membership in this Fac
ulty until the pressure of his judicial
 duties led to his resignation after a 
quarter of a century of service.

Judge Campbell's wide, accurate, 
scholarly legal knowledge especially 
fitted him for his work as Marshall 
Professor of Law. The elegance of 
his diction, his pure literary style and 
his most interesting personality, com
bined with the breadth and richness
 of his knowledge, technical and gen
eral, made him one of the most de
lightful of lecturers. It is more than 
doubtful whether the law school, with
 the methods then employed, could 
have won its high place with less
 capable men for its Faculty than Judge
 Campbell and his associates.

Many men are good, but he was a 
rare man among good men. I can 
scarcely close this brief sketch bet
ter than to quote some comments upon his character by those long asso
ciated with him. Justice Henry B. 
 Brown of the Supreme Court of the
 United States has said of him: "His 
private life was a model of purity—
dignified in bearing, refined in lan
guage, genial and happy in disposi
tion, faithful to his church, generous 
to charity, devoted to his family and 
friends, and punctual in the discharge
 of his pecuniary obligations. No un
toward action ever marred the har
mony of his character, no coarse or 
unseemly expression ever escaped his

His judicial associate for more than 
seventeen years, the Hon. Isaac P. 
Christiancy, speaking to the court of
 which they both were so long a part, 
 said: "I know from years of personal
 experience—that his principles of ac
tion toward his fellow men were such
 that if the like principles of action 
had equal control over all other men, 
 there would be little need for human
 laws or of courts to administer them. 
 These were the principles of conduct 
taught by Christ, the purest and best
 ever given to men, —and few men, if
 any, of my acquaintance more nearly 
reached the high standard fixed by 
these teachings than Judge Camp

The presiding Justice at the time
 of his death, Judge Champlin, furnishes this tribute: "I can say with
out reserve that he exhibited less of 
the frailties of our human nature than 
any man I ever knew. I have often 
thought that he was as nearly per
fect as any man I ever met. Lovely 
in disposition, pure in thought and 
purpose, high and noble in all his 
aims, firm in his friendships, kind in
 his manner, affable in his intercourse, 
 benevolent in his sentiments, a true
 Christian in heart and life, it is not 
surprising that these generous traits
 should stamp themselves upon his
 outward appearance and his counte
nance should indicate the pureness of 
his life and should give to it that be
nignity of expression which limners 
are wont to give to the beloved dis
ciple. The charm of his manner drew 
all men to him instinctively and made 
them feel that he was their friend."

There is no lawyer in the state nor 
student who ever sat under his in
struction but would to the extent of 
his acquaintance, gladly endorse it

V. H. Lane, '74, '78l