|The Hon. Richard C. Flannigan|
After what seemed like a brief moment serving as Chief Justice of the Michigan State Supreme Court, Richard Flannigan’s passing in Chicago was followed by his funeral mass back home in Norway, Michigan. His body was laid to rest at the Flannigan family mausoleum at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Marquette.
Because of that role as Chief Justice though—no matter how brief—he was subsequently recognized for his services in a ceremony at the state capitol a little over a year later. The June 12, 1929, special session of the Supreme Court had as its agenda the memorial and presentation of portraits of several Supreme Court Justices. In an unusual twist of circumstances, the Court had experienced the loss—“three times within a startlingly short space of time”—of seated Justices, for which this special session had been called.
Gathering in Lansing at the Senate Council Chambers, Supreme Court Justices, members of the Michigan State Bar and family members of the honorees were addressed by state dignitaries while those departed were eulogized. Mrs. R. C. Flannigan and her son, Clement, were on hand to present the portrait of Richard Flannigan.
The portrait was an oil on canvas of modest dimensions, now located at the fourth floor lobby of the Hall of Justice at the state capital. The artist, credited by the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society as “M. C. Clamont,” is alternately listed as “John McClymont” in the records of the Smithsonian Institution. While it is difficult to find any online reference for either of the two names, the Smithsonian does record several other portraits done by a John Ingliss McClymont who lived from 1858-1934. Interestingly, a number of those portraits are held by the State Historical Society of Colorado and the Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado—a location which we will shortly discover to be of significance to the Flannigan family.
In a newspaper report back home announcing the upcoming ceremony honoring Richard Flannigan, the Ironwood Daily Globe also happened to mention another honor bestowed upon this judge just before his passing. Pope Pius XI had conferred upon Richard Flannigan the Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory—the “highest honor that the head of the Roman Catholic Church can confer upon a layman”—in recognition of his “great service to the church and to his community and state.” Perhaps in a nod of remembrance to his now-long-deceased brother, Father Patrick M. Flannigan, Richard had still, amidst his demanding professional obligations, endeavored to keep his faith close at hand.
Of course, his notable moment in history has since—after all these years—earned him a mention in the Political Graveyard (scroll halfway down the alphabetized page) and even a “stub” from his two listings in the massive online encyclopedia, Wikipedia (which I see as a call for someone to fulfill a family historian’s duty). But what Richard Flannigan has represented to me is a person whose faith infused his life’s outlook with character qualities of diligence in the face of hardship and equanimity despite the pressures of national attention.
It’s been a privilege getting to know you, Your Honor. How I wish your spirit could be replicated in the actions of more leaders today.