Former mayor Logie honored for his life in public service



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

John H. Logie’s career was tailor-made to fit the criteria for receiving the State Bar of Michigan’s Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award.

He has clearly “made a significant lasting contribution to the nation, the state, or the community in which  [he] lives...” In fact, over and above his three terms as mayor benefiting Grand Rapids locally, it could be argued that his work has had significance at all three levels.

Throughout his career, Logie both wrote and advocated for legislation at the state level. In addition, his co-development, with Detroit’s Mayor Dennis Archer, of the Urban Core Mayors model in the early 1990s has served as an inspiration for inter-jurisdictional collaboration nationally.

And, as Logie’s nomination acknowledged, he has done it “in a way that strengthens the American system of justice under the law,” which is in keeping with his thriving practice at Warner Norcross and Judd. And, as his nomination — which came from an attorney at another Grand Rapids law firm — emphasizes, he has done it all with “with the highest standards of integrity, fairness, leadership, excellence, [and] dedication to principle...”

So it was no surprise that the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) chose Logie this year for the award, given him in front of hundreds gathered for the annual SBM Awards Banquet.
It seems that Logie was in public service all of his working life. A “fourth generation Grand Rapidian,” Logie decided moved back home after serving five year in the United States Navy and receiving his Juris Doctor from University of Michigan Law School.

Logie joined Warner Norcross in late 1968, and was instrumental in the firm’s growth.  “When I joined Warner Norcross, we were 19 lawyers. We were the only tenant in [the Old Kent, now Fifth Third] building, which was brand new. We took a whole floor, but at the time we could only use about 60% of it. Now we fill floors four through nine, as the headquarters of a firm with 220 lawyers in six Michigan cities. We made a decision to stay in Michigan, and we’ve seen not huge growth, but steady growth.”

But by 1969, Logie was off and running on what would become four decades of public service, which continues to this day.

He explains that when he was in the Navy he spent time in Annapolis, Maryland, touring the U.S. Naval Academy there and exploring the neighborhoods around it. He was struck by how well-kept they were, and found out that they were part of a historic preservation district.

When he moved into his home in the Hill District of Grand Rapids, he found crime and a lot of beautiful historic homes in disrepair. Especially as he witnessed some of the elegant houses being demolished, Logie could not help but think back to his Annapolis experience.

So he joined with others who wanted to see these neighborhoods restored, approached the city attorney and local state legislators, and set about making historic preservation happen.
Along the way, he was instrumental in writing the enabling Michigan’s Historic District Act, which became PA 169 of 1970.

He then helped draft the first ordinance in Michigan under that law, which established not only the Heritage Hill District, but also the Norton Indian Mounds District.

He continued his work to revitalize Grand Rapids, fighting the banks’ practice of “redlining,” or unfairly discriminating against in lending, inner city Grand Rapids neighborhoods’ residents. During the late 1970s work that Logie spearheaded led to creation of Home Repair Services, the non-profit agency that helps low-income city residents with upkeep and improvements on their homes to this day.

In 1986, Logie chaired the Grand Rapids/Kent County Sesquicentennial Committee. The celebration was a big success, and included lighting the bridges on the Grand River and establishing the river walk.

It was therefore no surprise when people started asking him to run for mayor. Logie says that, despite the part-time nature of the position, he asked permission of his partners at Warner Norcross, which had early on adopted a policy that the firm’s attorneys were expected to devote full time to their practice. When they allowed him to cut back on his hours (and pay), they were making an exception, and he says, “I was very grateful to Warner Norcross for making it possible.”

Douglas E. Wagner, managing partner of Warner Norcross, commented on Logie’s receiving the Frank J. Kelley award, “Our law firm recognizes the importance of civic engagement, and we are proud of the fact that our alumni include mayors, judges, U.S. Congressmen and an attorney general.”

Logie went on to become the longest-serving Mayor of Grand  Rapids, from 1992-2003.

During his tenure, he continued to practice litigation, health law, and real estate law, as well as maintain professional affiliations, including serving as the past president of the Michigan Society of Hospital Attorneys.

His accomplishments while mayor are numerous and impressive. He created the Grand Rapids Urban Homesteading ordinance, which permitted people to buy city-owned housing at no cost as long as they maintained it up to code for five years. He fought drug dealing within the city by institute a “padlock” ordinance (not still in effect due to legal challenges) where any property that had been raided by the police more than twice would be padlocked for up to a year. He started the free needle exchange program which survives to this day. He negotiated a program where hospitals, which had been treating a lot of homeless people, would contribute funds to local missions where the homeless could receive food, shelter, and some health care.

He presided over the revitalization of downtown Grand Rapids, and established a water authority which requires each member to set up an urban growth boundary, within which development will be directed.

In a recommendation letter to the SBM, former Congressional representative Vern Ehlers states, “John epitomizes the meaning of public servant.”