Tuttle, Tuttle and Tuttle: Ingham County’s First Family of Law


October 2, 1930 is a landmark in Ingham County’s legal history. Sisters Ester L. and Ruth B. Tuttle were the first women admitted to the Michigan Bar. Who was it to make the motion for admittance? None other than their father, Federal Judge Arthur J. Tuttle. It was the first time in the history of the United States a father made a motion for his two daughter’s admittance.

Ruth, Esther and their father Alfred Tuttle

Arthur was born in 1868 to Ogden Valorious and Julia Elizabeth (McArthur) Tuttle on the family farm near Leslie. He climbed quickly up the ladder to success.

  • In 1895 he graduated from the University of Michigan.
  • In 1898 he was elected Ingham County Prosecutor.
  • In 1903 he married Jessie Beatrix Stewart.
  • In 1904 his daughter Ruth was born.
  • In 1905 his daughter Ester was born.
  • In 1907 he became a senior partner in the Lansing firm of McArthur & Dunnebacke and was elected to the Michigan State Senate’s 14th district.
  • In 1911 President Taft appointed Arthur U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
  • In 1912 he became a federal judge for the eastern district of Michigan.

Arthur earned a reputation as a “stern” judge, administering severe sentences for “white slavery” cases via the Mann Act. He was applauded and disparaged in 1924 for proscribing former Hamtramck Mayor Peter C. Jezewski a two-year stay in Leavenworth prison for his part in a “beer ring”.

Arthur also declared the only death sentence to be carried out in Michigan since its statehood. Upon recommendation from a jury, Arthur condemned Polish immigrant and career criminal, Anthony Chebatoris, to death after shooting a bystander during a thwarted bank robbery in Midland, Michigan. He was hung at Milan Federal Prison on July 8, 1938.

Arthur again condemned a man to death in 1942, sentencing a German born Detroit restaurant owner, Max Stephan, to hang for assisting an escaped Nazi WWII pilot. Stephan was the first person in the country to be convicted of treason since the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. FDR later commuted the sentence to life in prison.

Arthur remained a Federal Judge until his death in 1944 and is now buried in Leslie’s Woodlawn Cemetery. He lived long enough to see his daughters graduate from the University of Michigan Law Department, open their own firm – Tuttle & Tuttle — and marry in a dual wedding.

Sources Consulted
Lansing Capitol News 10/3/1930
Lansing City Directory 1934-35
Let the Record Show by Richard Frazier and David Thomas
Michigan Bar Journal: Michigan and Capital Punishment by Eugene Wanger, September 2002
University of Michigan Archival Finding Aid of Arthur J. Tuttle Papers

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