Litigator may be citys real Renaissance Man

Practicing top-level litigation from his Charfoos & Christensen offices in the magnificently restored Hecker-Smiley Mansion in Detroits Cultural Center, J. Douglas Peters is one of the most understated gentlemen of culture in the Metro area.

Meeting Peters in his offices, one assumes that he is an attorney of some prominence, as his professional surroundings suggest a successful law
practice. His office shelves are lined with books, some of which are scholarly and particular to his field, and others that speak to some of his many interests outside of the law.

Upon closer scrutiny, the same authors name appears on a number of the books, as varied as that of a volume of legal expertise, to a glossy photo-heavy which chronicles the history of Motor City Rock n Roll during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s that name is John Douglas Peters.

Taking a further visual tour of the shelves, amidst his books and an interesting array of objets dart such as ancient artifacts and antiquities, is a particularly fine gilded framed photograph of Doug Peters and Itzhak Perlman.

That was taken at one of his concerts with the DSO, says Peters. I first met him in 1967, when I was putting myself through school by playing in symphonies around New England. Id been studying the Tchaikovsky Concerto for some time and had aspirations to be a professional violinist. And then, the New Hampshire Symphony asked me to back-up this young, unknown kid from Israel who was going to play that same piece.

Peters gets a small smile on his face as he recounts watching Perlmans rehearsal of the piece. After I saw Itzhak play the Concerto that Id been studying, I realized very quickly that I needed to change my career goals.

Even though Perlmans incomparable virtuosity helped Peters turn his talents toward another path in life, he would still continue to be a violinist with symphonies at Dartmouth College, Portland, Maine, Boston University, University of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Symphony and also in the late 1970s through 1980, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.

The search for another professional pursuit took the facile-minded New Hampshire-raised Peters into the study of institutional psychology. While completing his undergraduate degree, the ever-creative Peters launched a business making and selling furniture of his own design.

When a serious allergy to wood dust curtailed his use of a lathe, a graduate program at the University of Toledo, offering a dual degree in law and math proved enticing.

I had to give up furniture-making, he says. Id been interested in the law and math as well, and this was the only program like it in the nation.

Coming to Detroit in the mid 1970s at the invitation of Charfoos & Christensen finally solidified Peters choice of careers. But, the unquellable artist in him still found plenty of thoroughfares for expression.

A masterful photographer, during the 1980s, Peters even worked as a professional fight photographer, shooting for Boxing Digest and Ring Magazine. He captured compelling images of the sweet science as wide-ranging as members of the Kronk Boxing Club in action, to the iconic sportscaster Howard Cosell in a candid and disinterested encounter with the volcano-haired Don King. The aforementioned Cosell-King photo now hangs as an imposing blow-up in a back office,

just one of his many works of collage, sculpture, paint and other media that adorn the interior of the Hecker-Smiley Mansion.

Peters also used his artisans hands working with the restoration lab of the DIA, on gilding and gold work for the museums priceless art treasures that needed his precise and skilled attention.

Now working in mixed media with an emphasis on textured color, Peters has a wealth of works comprised of portraiture, still life and landscapes, with even the
occasional bow to whimsy. Hes had numerous showings of his work in galleries throughout Metro Detroit, and in New York and other cities as well.

As a classically trained violinist, photographer, author, acclaimed artist, and nationally known legal scholar and litigator, the eclectic and remarkably unassuming J. Douglas Peters could well be given the title of the Renaissance Citys real Renaissance Man. But, being the self-effacing gentleman that he is, he would most likely refuse it.

By Paul Arlon

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