In Memoriam: Alfred M. Butzbaugh, 65th SBM President

Alfred M. ButzbaughJanuary 13, 2020—Updated January 15, 11:00 a.m.

The State Bar of Michigan mourns the loss of its 65th president, Alfred M. Butzbaugh, who died January 11, at the age of 79.

“Al Butzbaugh leaves a legacy of extraordinary accomplishments,” SBM Executive Director Janet Welch said. “He was an unsurpassed champion for access to justice, a legendary mentor, and an all-around role model not just for lawyers in Michigan but for human beings everywhere.”

"All of us are so saddened by the news of the passing of Al Butzbaugh," SBM President Dennis M. Barnes said. "Al was greatly loved and admired by lawyers across the state, and indeed, by all who knew him. He will be deeply missed."

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm served on the State Bar Board of Commissioners during Butzbaugh’s presidency and appointed him in 2003 to the 22nd circuit court in Berrien County, where he served until his retirement in 2012. The Michigan Supreme Court appointed him as chief judge in 2007. “Al Butzbaugh was a magnificent soul, a gentle jurist with a heart as big as Michigan’s great southwest," said Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. "I loved his loyalty to people and communities that have faced historical barriers, one example being his fulsome support for the citizens of Benton Harbor. Michigan is better for his service.”

Butzbaugh was elected president of the State Bar of Michigan for the 1999–2000 bar year. Before retirement, he served as chief judge at the Berrien County Trial Court 2nd Judicial Circuit. Prior to that, he was a senior partner with the St. Joseph firm of Butzbaugh & Dewane, a practice focused on civil litigation, business transactions, and estate planning.

He served on the State Bar Board of Commissioners beginning in 1992 and rose to the rank of president after serving as treasurer (1996–1997), vice president (1997–1998), and president-elect (1998–1999). He served on the Representative Assembly representing Berrien County from 1973 to 1979 and from 1996 to 2000.

U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts, who served as State Bar of Michigan president in 1996–1997 said “With his quiet dignity, Al embraced us all. Not just the ones sitting in the board room with him, but all of the others for whom he fought for access to justice. He saw the light; he was the light on the path to equal justice.”

Butzbaugh was an advocate for assuring equal access to justice for all people and served as chair of the State Bar of Michigan Access to Justice For All Task Force from 1996 to 1999, where he championed creation of the State Bar’s Access to Justice Campaign. He received the State Bar’s Roberts P. Hudson award in 2001 and was the 2019 Founder Award Recipient presented by the Michigan State Bar Foundation. Examples of efforts made possible through his work at the Foundation as a State Bar leader and in other capacities are expanded pro bono, telephone hotlines, immigration law services, foreclosure prevention projects, coordinated statewide fundraising for legal aid, and assistance for self-represented litigants.

Butzbaugh served as president of the Berrien County Bar Association from 1982 to 1983. He was a fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation and the American Bar Association Foundation. He was also a member of the State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association.

Butzbaugh was involved in many civic activities and was responsible for initiating the Youth Sports for Benton Harbor endowment program to establish and maintain sports programs for the children of Benton Harbor. He also served as a mentor for the Benton Harbor Area Schools and initiated and taught a Chess Club at the Gifted and Talented Academy in the Benton Harbor Area Schools.

Butzbaugh received his B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Michigan and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. He and his wife Tiffany L. Butzbaugh have 3 daughters, Currie, Alexa, and Mia.

A memorial service is planned for the Spring.