Robert W. Butterfield

Page 168-170 - Robert W. Butterfield was an honored member of the Michigan bar for more than half a century, was a man of fine intellectual and professional attainments, was a citizen of broad vision and creative public spirit, and his noble and generous personality made his a benignant influence in all the relations of life. Mr. Butterfield initiated his professional career in Grand Rapids, and this city continued to represent his home and the central stage of his professional activities during the remaining years of his long and useful life. He was one of the veteran and most honored and distinguished members of the Grand Rapids bar at the time of his death, July 17, 1920. Roger W. Butterfield was born at Elbridge, Onondaga county, New York April 23, 1844, his father having been a clergyman of the Baptist church and having held various pastoral charges in the states of New York, New Jersey, Iowa and Michigan. The subject of this memoir was thus reared in a home that was replete with refined and cultural influences but that had none of the evidences of affluence. He was earnestly aided and encouraged in gaining a liberal education , and in 1866 he was graduated in Princeton College, from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts. In preparation for his chosen profession he thereafter completed a course in the law department of the University of Michigan, in which he was graduated in 1868, with the degree of Bachelor of Laws and with virtually concomitant admission to the Michigan bar. He forthwith chose Grand Rapids as his place of residence, and here he continued in the active practice of law many years -- in fact, his professional service was not entirely abated until death brought a close to his life, when he was seventy-six years of age. Soon after his coming to Grand Rapids, Mr. Butterfield formed a professional partnership with John W. Champlin, who later served with distinction on the bench of the Michigan supreme court. Later John C. Fitz Gerald became a member of the firm. After the dissolution of this partnership Mr. Butterfield was engaged in individual practice for some time, was for an interval the senior member of the law firm to Butterfield & Whithey, and January 1, 1887, he became senior member of the firm of Butterfield & Keeney, which later was amplified in its personnel and assumed the title of Butterfield, Keeney & Amberg. With this important and representative law firm Mr. Butterfield continued his alliance, as its senior member, until the time of his death, more than thirty years later. In the year 1906 Roger C. Butterfield, son of the subject of this memoir, was admitted to the firm, and ten years later occurred the admission of Julius H. Amberg. Concerning the career of Mr. Butterfield has been written an estimate that is well worthy of reproduction in this connection and that is as follows: "The fifty-two years of Mr. Butterfield's life at the Grand Rapids bar were years of activity. In his earlier career he achieved appreciable success in trial work. He brought to the presentation of his cases patience in research, carefulness in preparation and fine native qualities of mind, the while his earnest and forceful manner of speech and his evident sincerity gave weight to his arguments and contributed to his prestige as an advocate. In later years he withdrew largely from trial work, but to the time of his death he continued to devote the major part of his time to professional business. Mr. Butterfield combined in marked degree the attributes of the scholar and the man of affairs, and his mature judgment and sagacious counsel gave him a place of large influence in the business and financial life of the community. In times of financial stress his services were valuable not merely to the individual persons and the corporations constituting his immediate clientage, but also in averting disaster to important elements in the industrial life of his home city and state. * * * In the long and unbroken professional career of Roger W Butterfield he was made the counselor of many, and it is but cold statement of fact to say not merely that his advice and direction were sagacious, practical and helpful, but that his life was marked throughout by the strictest adherence to that cardinal principle of the profession by which he was committed to all faith and integrity. Mr. Butterfield was a lover of books, and from his early manhood was an appreciative collector of them. With the passing years he assembled a well-chosen library of many volumes, and his tastes led him to pass much time among them. During his later years he passed a portion of his time in travel, and his keenness of observation added to the stores of knowledge he had gained from his extensive reading and study. He was frequently called upon to deliver addresses before assemblies of his professional confreres and also before other bodies, and those who have listened to him on such occasions will bear in mind the profundity of his learning and the eloquent and inspiring words of which he was the master. A mind well stored and well trained made his public addresses and private conversation distinct sources of instruction, inspiration and entertainment. A memorial to Mr. Butterfield would be incomplete were there failure to take note of his old-fashioned courtesy and kindliness of manner, the frankness with which he expressed his opinions, and the tenacity with which he stood for what he believed to be right." Mr. Butterfield stood exemplar of enlightened, helpful and constructive public spirit, and the texture of his mind, as combined with his business and executive ability, made him an influential and valued member of the board of regents of the University of Michigan, a position that he retained sixteen years and that represented his only public office. Though he had no desire to enter the arena of practical politics and had no ambition for public office, he was a staunch advocate and supporter of the principles of the Republican party. On the 24th day of May, 1876, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Butterfield to Miss Leonora I Drake, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and their ideal companionship of more that forty years was not long to be broken, as Mrs. Butterfield survived her husband by only a few weeks, she having passed to the life eternal October 3, 1920. They are survived by four children: Mary is a resident of Grand Rapids (unmarried); Roger C., who continues an active member of the law firm of Butterfield, Keeney & Amberg, is individually mentioned in this publication; Isaac L, is a resident of California, and Archibald D. resides at Waverly, Tennessee.

Transcriber: Terry Start
Created: 6 January 2003