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John Graves
Class of: 1860
 
Biography

PASSING OF JOHN GRAVES
 
UNITED STATES COMMISSIONER HERE FOR MANY YEARS.
 
ONE OF THE FIRST LAW GRADUATES AT THE U. OF M.
 
Detroit Bar Meets To-day to Take Action on His Death.
 
John Graves, for many years deputy clerk of the United States Circuit Court, and United States commissioner here, died unexpectedly early yesterday morning. About the middle of January he had a stroke of paralysis, but it was thought recently that he was gradually recovering. So well had he been feeling that he had made arrangements to spend the summer with his daughter at Denton, and he spoke cheeringly to his friends of the pleasure he expected from his projected outing in the country. Last Monday he sat on his porch for a time and during the day and evening moved freely around the house. He retired early and about 1 o'clock complained of a difficulty in breathing. Mrs. Graves gave him some medicine and, as she was helping him change his position in bed, he quietly passed away.
 
Mr. Graves was born at Ypsilanti, March 12, 1829, and was the son of Lyman and Olive Gorton Graves. He attended the Normal school at Ypsilanti and then entered the University of Michigan, where he graduated from the literary department in 1858. Two years later, he took the degree of LL. B. from the same university, being one of the first graduates of the law department of the university. In the same year he was admitted to the bar, and came to Detroit, where he practiced until 1869, when he was appointed deputy clerk of the United States District Court. In 1873, he was appointed United States commissioner, and filled that office until his death.
 
He was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and of the Detroit Bar association. In 1858, he married Miss Susan M. MacDowell, of Ann Arbor, and the couple had two children, one of whom is Mrs. Frank W. Smith, of Denton, Mich., and the other, MacDowell Graves, a graduate of the Michigan School of Mines, who has achieved some distinction as a mining engineer. Mr. Graves' widow and children survive him, as well as two brothers and a sister, who live near Ypsilanti.
 
In every way, Mr. Graves was a man to be loved and respected. He was courteous and pleasant in his intercourse with men, careful and conscientious in the discharge of his official duties, thoroughly amiable by nature, considerate of others and genial in disposition. Those with whom he had been associated for so many years in connection with the United States courts had learned to love and reverence him and the same kindly feeling was had for him by a wide circle of acquaintances.
 
His life and conduct were such that the motto inscribed on the tombstone of his old college president, Dr. tappan, at Vevey, Switzerland, might fittingly be placed on his for he "dealt justly, he loved mercy, he walked humbly with his God".
 
The death of Mr. Graves was announced on the opening of the United States Courts yesterday morning and an adjournment was immediately taken.  The Detroit Bar association will meet at noon to-day in the United States Circuit Court room to make action on Mr. Graves' death.
 
Funeral services will be held at his late residence on West Canfield avenue, on Thursday forenoon and the remains will be taken to Ypsilanti for interment.
 
--From Detroit Free Press, Apr 23, 1902, pg. 10
 
 
A GRAND OLD MAN
John Graves, who so long and so acceptably filled the position of United States Circuit Court commissioner in this district, was one of those men who can be designated as a lovable character without suggesting effeminacy on the part of the eulogist. He was not one to make a noise in the world in these days of turbulent activity, but no man ever more conscientiously met the requirements of his responsibilities.  It is entirely to the credit of the court with which he was identified to say that for years there was not one of its officials who could be classified as an ordinary type. There were the musician, the artist, the dreamer, the judge untouched by the selfishness of worldly ambition, the man who loves to argue and the official with the self-control to bow to the requirements of civilization who would have been a rollicking buccaneer in a former age.
 
In a sense Commissioner Graves was the balance wheel. He was never carried off his feet. The most hurried question could not extort from him a hurried answer. In his own quiet way he would take measurements and when his opinion came it carried more than oracular weight. He had an innate sense of justice, yet the promptings  of mercy were mighty within him and he resolved many a doubt by telling an offender to go and sin no more. He acquired the fullest knowledge of the duties of his position and he possessed a judgment of human nature that was invaluable. Nothing unworthy ever swerved his course. Kind, gentle and sympathetic, he could harden to adamant where the protection of society, through the law, demanded. He was the finest type of an older generation, and a man whom it was a profit as well as a pleasure to have known.
 
--From Detroit Free Press, Apr 23, 1902, pg. 4
 
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