Celebration of Judge Ben Logan's career draws well-wishers from far and wide



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Well-wishers from the area and as far away as Chicago braved the weather last Thursday night to attend a special celebration in honor of Judge Benjamin Logan retiring from the 61st District Court bench.

That will come as no surprise to people who know Judge Logan’s long history of going wherever he was needed to help others.

Though raised in Ohio and a graduate of Ohio Northern University Law School, Logan always had ties to Michigan because his father owned an establishment at the famed Idlewild Resort, which catered to African-Americans of means before the 1960s integration legislation.

He went into law practice here, married his wife Denise, and had five children. He was elected judge in 1988 and was very active in the Democratic Party, as well as in the community.

At the same time, his professional affiliations took him across the U.S. His passion was the National Bar Association, “the nation's oldest and largest national association of predominantly African-American lawyers, judges, educators and law students.” He chaired the NBA’s Judicial Council from 1994-1995, and, as reported in the Grand Rapids Legal News, was honored with inclusion in the association’s Hall of Fame in July 2013.

He also founded the local Floyd Skinner Bar Association, and many of those colleagues joined him Thursday at the B.O.B., including Anita Hitchcock of the Grand Rapids City Attorney’s office, who emceed the festivities.

All of that seemed in jeopardy when, in late October 2013, Judge Logan suffered a heart attack while on the bench and was hospitalized for quite some time. He has now recovered, and confides when asked what he will do with his spare time, “My wife tells me I’m going to do mediation and facilitation.”

People from all walks of life lined up to give gifts and proclamations — and what was apparently a very nice travel package so he can attend the next National Bar meeting. The theme was consistent: whether learning the ropes in the Democratic Party, beginning a leadership term at the NBA?Judicial Council, helping African-American youth succeed, or starting out as an attorney, anyone could go to Judge Logan and find a listening ear and good advice.

According to fellow NBA?Judicial Council members, that is a trait that set Judge Logan apart and made them want to attend the reception to honor him. Judge Denise Langford Morris and Judge Craig Strong made the trip in from Detroit, and chair-elect of the NBA Judicial Council Judge Leonard Murray drove from Chicago, though weather made him run late. “I promise I obeyed the Cook County speed limits,” he vowed.

But Attorney Stephen R. Drew, of Drew Cooper and Anding, may have made the remarks that amused Judge Logan the most. He has known Ben Logan for decades and the large crowd at the reception laughed and clapped as he told a few personal stories of their friendship. One story concerned Judge Logan, eight other African-Americans and himself buying wristbands to stand in the prestigious finish line section at the Kentucky Derby, where the two went often. The catch: the “entrepreneur” who sold the wristbands insisted on having them back to resell to other unsuspecting buyers. “Imagine ten brothers standing there the whole time with our hands deep in our pockets,” Drew reminisced as Judge Logan smiled broadly.