Daily Briefs

Livonia District Court Judge James Richard McCann dies


James Richard McCann was born Nov. 23, 1923. He was a lifelong resident of the Detroit area. Predeceased by his beloved wife, Lillian (1930-2018), he was the last to pass of four brothers. They remained close throughout their lives after their father died when James was 9 years old. At the age of 15, James went to the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Upper Peninsula and sent his $26 income to his widowed mother and brothers in Detroit.
He attended Cass Tech afterward and then joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 at 19. He was a hard worker and advanced to sergeant serving in England, France, and Germany.

Upon returning from World War II, James attended Hillsdale College where he met Lillian. He graduated with honors at the top of the History department and was accepted to Wayne State University Law School, the only law school with night classes, which allowed him to work as a history teacher in the Dearborn Public Schools during the day.

In 1955, after James graduated from law school, he and Lillian moved to Livonia. He was elected to Livonia City Council in 1958. He taught school, practiced law and served on council for the next eight years. While serving on council he fought for an industrialized base, larger residential lots, limited sign use and a host of other improvements that helped make Livonia’s ordinances the model for other communities.

In 1966, he was elected municipal judge and served until the state adopted the District Court system in 1968. As a district court judge, James started the first Volunteer Probation Department in the state. He also implemented the first Volunteer Work Program in the state as an alternative to jail. This model has been widely adopted throughout the state. He served on the Community Commission on Drug Abuse and established the first court sponsored 12-step program in Michigan.

He served as president of the District Judges Association in 1977 and was one of the longest serving District Court members of the Judicial Tenure Commission (1981-1994). He retired that year and his daughter, Hon. Kathleen McCann, was elected to the seat. In 2010 the James R. McCann Hall of Justice on Five Mile Road was dedicated in his honor.

James is survived by children: Kathleen McCann (Norm Nickin), Maureen McCann, James C. McCann (Linda McCann), Wade McCann (Gosha McCann). He is also survived by grandchildren: Amy Eiken-Sluyter (Eric), Jodi Prince (Johnny), Amy Micallef (Mark), Katie McCann (Teddy), Rian Kaminski, Chris Nickin (Paula), Meghan Varney (Tom), Trevor McCann (Josie), Tyler McCann (Sarah), and Michael Wade McCann. Also, great-grandchildren: Serena, Riley, Finn, Jagger, Makenzy, Kylee, Kaiden and Haily. He is also survived by sister-in-laws: Suzanne Koontz, and Lula Lehmann (Gene), as well as many beloved nephews, nieces and cousins.

A visitation service will be held Thursday, May 9 from 2 to 9 p.m. at Harry J. Will Funeral Home, 3700 Six Mile Road, Livonia. The funeral will be on Friday, May 10 with visitation at 10 a.m. and service at 10:30 a.m. at St. Edith Church, 15089 Newburg Road, Livonia.