Former AG feted on his 90th for Kelley Institute's 6th annual lecture

Amid laughter, tears, memories and meaningful words, the MSU College of Law honored Frank Kelley on his 90th birthday as an example of an ethical lawyer committed to protecting Michigan’s citizens.
The 6th annual lecture of the Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession, held Dec. 4, included featured speaker the Hon. Michael F. Cavanagh, Michigan Supreme Court justice, with special remarks from former Governor James J. Blanchard and Kelley himself.
“I can think of no better examples of how a lawyer can serve the public than our speakers tonight,” said Renee Newman Knake, MSU Law professor and Kelley Institute co-director.
Kelley is the longest-serving attorney general in the United States, serving from 1962 to 1999. Cavanagh is the longest serving current Michigan Supreme Court justice, first elected in 1982 and his current term expires in 2015. Blanchard served as governor from 1983 to 1991 before becoming the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
The audience roared with laughter at Blanchard’s stories of Kelley, including the line: “He still buys green bananas.”
But there was a serious side, as well.
“Frank Kelley created the office of attorney general,” Blanchard said, outlining his mentor’s efforts to use the office to provide Michigan citizens with safe products, fair energy prices and a clean environment.
Cavanagh echoes Blanchard’s statement, explaining that now every state accepts that it’s the attorney general’s job to protect the consumer, the environment and ensure product safety.
“The people of Michigan always knew who they wanted as their attorney general,” Cavanagh said.
Dean Joan Howarth emphasized Kelley’s commitment to the MSU College of Law and said all three speakers have important insight for students and their careers.
“Too few young people see the creativity and honor of a career in law,” she said. “As you look back at your careers, you all see that it really was about creativity, design and innovation.”
And then the guest of honor took the podium, wiping tears from his eyes as he talked about the words that have meant so much to him during his career: legal, law, sports, fitness, love, marriage – and now – gratitude.
“Work hard, wish for luck and be grateful for the things in your life,” he said. “I know I am very, very blessed.”
The Kelley Institute has been endowed by Frank J. Kelley, his many friends and supporters, and other Law College alumni and friends. It will continue in perpetuity to benefit the many students who journey through Michigan State Law. A complete list of donors is available at

Reprinted with permission from MSU College of Law 

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