He was sitting on the curb with his mother, his sister and four suitcases. It was December of 1941, just after Pearl Harbor, and his family had been evicted from their apartment because his single mother had been laid off from her $18-a-week job. How did that youngster become a well-respected attorney who argued (and won) a landmark decision before the U.S. Supreme Court? That’s only a part of Bill Saxton’s amazing story. The Chief Federal District Judge in Detroit has called Bill a “living legend,” and he is our IMGA Golfer of the month.
Life was not easy for a child whose family was constantly on the move and struggling to survive financially. Having attended 10 different schools, and living in five different states, he took whatever jobs he could to bring in money . . . from delivering newspapers, to working in restaurants, being a bellhop and driving a truck for an egg supplier. But he always respected and was inspired by his mother, his personal hero. She made many sacrifices and worked multiple jobs in order to provide for her family.
After serving in the Merchant Marine Corp. during World War II, he worked his way through law school, passing the bar exam one year before he graduated in 1952. The 100-year-old Detroit law firm Butzel Long offered him a position at a whopping $450 per month (twice the going rate), commenting that they had never hired a job candidate who had passed the bar before graduation.
From the beginning of his career through today, his guiding principles have served him well:
* Always respect everyone. Never think that you’re better than another person, regardless of their station in life.
* Listen carefully. You never learn anything by talking.
* Be absolutely honest.
Although he diligently worked extremely long hours, Bill is quick to point out that he was given many wonderful opportunities. His successes mounted up, and the responsibilities continued to increase. He ultimately became Counsel, Director Emeritus and former Chairman and CEO of Butzel Long and, at age 90, continues to read 6-15 cases a day.
A mere summary of his accomplishments and honors would require many more words than I’m allowed in this article, but they include being listed in “Best Lawyers in America,” “Who’s Who in American Law,” and “Who’s Who in America.” His many awards include the Nathan B. Goodnow Award by the Detroit Bar Association in recognition of a career that exemplifies the highest standard of the legal profession.
Bill, we’re fortunate to have you in our community and are very happy to see you back on the golf course after your recent health issues. I hope that you soon add a fourth hole-in-one to your record!