Robert Webster

On the morning of Thursday, May 16, Robert Byron Webster, age 81, passed away peacefully in Royal Oak. He was born March 9, 1932, at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

Webster was the only child of Donald Byron Webster, GM engineer, and Glennie "Betsy" Elizabeth Webster, artist, of Birmingham. Webster was a life-long Michigan resident, and 1949 graduate of Baldwin High School, Birmingham, where he was captain of the swim team and state champion his senior year.

Throughout his formative years, Webster always returned to Michigan and eventually settled in Bloomfield Township, Birmingham where he has deep family roots, and lastly Beverly Hills. Webster and his parents travelled the country when he was younger, and later he would travel through Europe, but his heart always belonged up north at "The Cottage" on Crystal Lake, Beulah, where he spent his childhood and adult years picking cherries, climbing sand dunes, fishing, swimming, downhill and cross-country skiing, and learning to sail. He continued these cherished traditions with his children and grandchildren every summer and winter.

Webster served his country by enlisting in the 127th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, an Air Defense unit of the Michigan Air National Guard on January 8, 1951, during the Korean War. He was stationed in Portland, Maine for two years and then attended service school at Lowry AFB, Denver in 1952, serving as squadron sgt major in 1953. In 1961, he was commissioned and served to the rank of major, at Selfridge Air Force Base.

Webster swam for University of Michigan and earned his undergraduate degree in 1955. With 4 years of the GI Bill, Webster's father steered him away from engineering and toward law after saying, "You seem to have a gift for gab, maybe you should be a lawyer." Webster earned his law degree from University of Michigan in 1957 and began his legal career as a clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Freeman in 1957. Upon passing the bar in 1958, Webster went into private practice, beginning at Slyfield, Harman, Reitz and Tait as an associate, then Hill, Lewis, Adams, Goodrich and Tait until 1973 when he served as an Oakland County Circuit Court Judge appointed by Governor William G. Milliken. During his time as Circuit Court judge, Webster served as alternate presiding judge and chief judge each for two years leaving a reputation of a dedicated, fair and wise judge.

He returned to private practice in 1982 specializing in commercial litigation, family law, professional liability, alternative dispute mediation and arbitration until his retirement in 2011. He was a partner with Hill Lewis, Clark Hill PLC, and Giarmarco, Mullins, & Horton PC.

Webster served as president of the State Bar of Michigan from 1989-1990; was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court as chairman of the Committee to Revise and Consolidate Michigan Court Rules; was on the MSC Task Force on gender issues in the court; co-chaired the Judicial Qualifications Committee, a congressional committee that reviews the qualifications of candidates for federal judgeships; and served in various capacities with the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan. Webster is a past director of the American Judicature Society and National Commissioner on Uniform State Laws, and a co-author of Martin, Dean & Webster "Michigan Court Rules Practice."

Local politics were also a draw for Webster and he served as a precinct delegate (when everything was recorded with paper and pencil and his family helped to go door to door during elections) as well as a delegate to the Republican Convention in 1972. Webster also served on numerous non-legal boards such as the Horizon Health Systems and other organizations.

An avid vegetable gardener, Webster was also drawn to genealogy and spent many dedicated hours to learning about his family tree passing down both interests to his children and grandchildren.

Webster is survived by his children: Anne E. Webster Jacobs and husband, Chris Jacobs; Allison D. Webster Giddings and husband, Gavin Giddings; Peter H. Webster and wife Penny; James B. Webster and their mother, Marilyn Hey Webster. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Colin Jacobs, Samuel Giddings, Ethan Webster, Kyle Jacobs, Glennie Webster, Alexander Jacobs, and Sydney Giddings.

A memorial service will be held at the Birmingham Community House in Birmingham on Friday, May 31, at 3 p.m.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland and Macomb Counties or the Crystal Lake and Watershed Association.

Published: Thu, May 23, 2013