Obituary: William H. Dance

William Henry Dance, an expert in immigration and naturalization law who founded the Detroit chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, died in Grosse Pointe on Wednesday, Jan. 15, after many months of declining health. He was 92.

A native of New York, Dance attended the University of Michigan following in his father’s and older brother’s footsteps.

His undergraduate studies were cut short when he joined the Navy in World War II.

Dance served as a lieutenant, junior grade on the USS Siboney, CVE-112, an escort carrier, in final stages of the war in the Pacific theater.

Upon his return, Dance attended U-M Law school from which he graduated in 1949.

Dance practiced intellectual property law in New York, then he and his wife, Betsy, spent some time in Paris where he worked as a security guard at the United Nations and wrote short stories. 

They returned to the United States and settled in Grosse Pointe in the early 1950s.

Dance began a general law practice, pursuing his interest in international and admiralty law and representing the government of France for many years, founding the Alliance Francaise of Detroit and ultimately being honored as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France for his service.

Dance worked as an immigration and naturalization lawyer  in the 1970s and started the Detroit chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He served as its president and as a board member of the national organization.

Dance also was active in the international law sections of the State Bar of Michigan and the Detroit Bar Association. 

He taught immigration law for many years at Wayne State University Law School and at the former Detroit College of Law. 

Dance wrote a number of articles and then a weekly column on immigration law for the Detroit Legal News. 

He practiced law until he was 90 when he broke his neck, which made it impossible to continue his work.

Dance particularly loved representing pro bono clients seeking political asylum and he received many awards and honors for his work in immigration law. 

He and his wife traveled to France and to Haiti as often as they could. He was an enthusiastic champion of the Haitian people throughout their ordeals.

Dance played the trumpet and he and his wife enjoyed listening to Dixieland jazz.

Dance was a trustee at University Liggett School, attended by all three of his children, and of the William L. Clements Library of American History and Culture at the University of Michigan.

Dance was predeceased by his wife, who died in 1993.

He is survived by his three children: Elizabeth, Theodore and William; a brother, F. Esburn Dance; and three grandchildren: Olivia, William and Sarah.

A memorial service is scheduled at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23 at  Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, 16 Lake Shore Rd., Grosse Pointe Farms. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Sigma Gamma Foundation Treasurer, Sigma Gamma Foundation, PO Box 36373, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236.  


  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »