Former justice looks back on 7 decades in law and politics

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Herbert Hoover, Bobby Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney--Lawrence ''Larry'' Boyd Lindemer has rubbed shoulders with many well-known figures during his long and illustrious career in law and politics.

Lindemer, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice, has always been a political animal, ever since his foray into the arena as student council president at Syracuse Central High School.

''I've always recognized the importance of politics in so much of all activities in life,'' he says. ''While people decry it, I think it's necessary and vital.''

Encouraged by parents and school advisors to consider a career in law, Lindemer attended Hamilton College in New York for two years, before transferring to the University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1943. Then World War II intervened, and Lindemer served as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Air Force on the ground stateside, earning a Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) as a cryptographic security officer. After the war, he returned to Ann Arbor and graduated with an LL.B. degree from U-M Law School in 1949.

''The staff of the law school including the dean, were very supportive and encouraged me,'' he says. ''My experience there was difficult but still enjoyable.''

He and his wife Becky made their home in Stockbridge, where they raised their sons, Lawrence Boyd Jr., and David.

Lindemer served as assistant prosecuting attorney for Ingham County in 1949 and 1950, and in 1950 ran for the Michigan State House of Representatives from Ingham County 2nd District, defeating incumbent Jacob Schepers in the September Republican primary election. He went on to win the general election in November, and served in the House from 1951 until 1952.

''I was always mentally involved with the issues and not reluctant to express myself,'' he says. ''The Republican floor leader at one time suggested I seek his approval before speaking on the floor. I was shocked and went to the Speaker of the House Victor Knox for advice. He laughed, reassured me, and told me to continue as I'd been doing. He emphasized his advice with his sometimes-salty language and told me not to be concerned. The next day he appointed me to chair a special committee!''

After losing in the August 1952 Republican primary to John McCune--who went on to win the general election--Lindemer and his family moved to Washington, D.C. where he served from 1953-55 on the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, a body appointed by President Harry S. Truman in 1947 to recommend administrative changes in the U.S. Federal Government - and popularly referred to as The Hoover Commission, as Truman appointed former President Herbert Hoover to chair it.

''I loved it! Very heady stuff,'' Lindemer says. ''I never met Truman. I was asked by Hoover to work for him as a special assistant after the commission ended. Hoover invited my whole family to his home for dinner. Bobby Kennedy's office was two doors down from mine and we had lunch together several times -- and Becky and I socialized with Bobby and others on three or four occasions.''

In 1955, Lindemer joined the firm of Foster, Foster and Campbell in Lansing--for a while it went by the moniker Foster, Lindemer, Swift and Collins. One of his largest clients was the Michigan Milk Producers Association.

''I enjoyed the courtroom practice. However, I think my most productive activity was advising in the privacy of an office,'' he says. ''The nitty gritty of trial work wasn't always enjoyable. The process involved the resolution of problems by thoughtful discussion with peers.''

Lindemer was soon knee-deep in politics again, serving as chairman of the Republican State Central Committee from 1957 until 1961.

''In my younger years, I liked to run things,'' he says. ''Although limited by the reality of politics I concentrated on rebuilding the organization with excellent help from a good staff that we assembled.''

He served as delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention and an alternate to the 1964 convention; and in 1964, was Midwest Campaign Director for Nelson Rockefeller's bid for President.

''Rockefeller's close friend George Hinman asked me to join the organization,'' Lindemer says. ''I'd never met Rockefeller and his new wife, Happy, and told George I'd like to meet and talk to Rockefeller first. The Rockefellers invited Becky and me to New York for dinner in their apartment. We had a delightful and productive visit and Becky agreed I should do it.''

Lindemer, who served as commissioner of the State Bar of Michigan from 1962 to 1970, was a candidate for Michigan Attorney General in 1966, losing to incumbent Democrat Frank Kelley.

In 1968, he was Midwest coordinator for George Romney's Campaign for President -- (and yes, he's eagerly following Mitt's current campaign).

''Romney was elected Michigan governor after I'd left the chairmanship,'' Lindemer says. ''Becky and I had met him and Lenore and our wives liked each other. Romney was very intense and sometimes difficult. I met with him and advised withdrawal from the race but I think he'd already decided to do it. I was not a close confidant but always had great respect for him.''

In 1968, Lindemer was appointed to the U-M Board of Regents, then won election, and served from 1969 to 1975, when Robben Fleming was U-M president.

''I loved it. We functioned well as a group and I have no memory of any decisions or course of action based upon political affiliation,'' he says. ''The president was a Democrat as were several of the deans, but decisions and discussions ignored politics.''

Lindemer is also former president of the U-M Alumni Association, and a past trustee and current member of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.

On June 2, 1975, Lindemer was appointed by Gov. Bill Milliken to the Michigan Supreme Court to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Justice Thomas M. Kavanagh. After losing in the November 1976 general election, to Democrat Blair Moody Jr., Lindemer went on to spend 10 years as senior vice president and general counsel of Consumers Power Co. in Jackson, before rejoining Foster, Swift, Collins and Smith in 1986.

Admitted to the Michigan Bar, U.S. Supreme Court, and Court of Military Appeals, Lindemer is an American Bar Foundation Fellow and a member of the American Judicature Society. A past commissioner of the State Bar of Michigan and a former member of the Michigan Board of Ethics, he also served on the Governor's Special Committee on Prison Disturbances.

Today, Lindemer calls Chelsea home, where he lives at the Silver Maples of Chelsea Retirement Community.

''I enjoy the staff, other residents and general atmosphere,'' he says.

And his career is still ticking along; even at the age of 91, he remains Of Counsel for Foster Swift in Lansing.

''He's coming to do a special event for us next month,'' says Kim Hafley, director of Marketing and Recruitment for the firm. ''He's a delightful gentleman and a wonderful story teller.''

Published: Thu, Aug 9, 2012

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