Frank Murphy Papers

Bentley Historical Library banner

Frank Murphy papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Frank Murphy papers collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Michigan born lawyer, judge, politician and diplomat, served as Detroit Recorder's Court Judge, Mayor of Detroit, Governor General of the Philippines, Governor of Michigan, U. S. Attorney General and U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Papers include extensive correspondence, subject files, Supreme court case files, scrapbooks, photographs and other material.

The career of Frank Murphy was distinguished by the varied scope of his public service. For three decades, he was Michigan's best-known public servant, a consummate politician, known and respected by thousands. Murphy was born April 13, 1890 in Sand Beach (later Harbor Beach), Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1914, served in the infantry during World War I, and upon his discharge received appointment as first assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Although a holder of high political office, Murphy kept coming back to the law. In 1923, he was elected Detroit Recorder's Court judge. Here, he won national attention with his one-man grand jury probe into various departments and as presiding judge in the famous Sweet trial. In 1930, following the removal by recall of Charles W. Bowles, Murphy was elected mayor of the city of Detroit. He was reelected in 1931 and served until May 1933. As mayor during the heart of the depression, Murphy won high marks for his efforts to deal with the devastation caused by widespread unemployment.

A staunch supporter of Franklin Roosevelt in his presidential campaign of 1932, Murphy was rewarded with appointment as governor-general of the Philippines. He served in this position until the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth in November 1935 at which time he became the United States high commissioner. At President Roosevelt's urging, he returned to the United States in 1936 to run for governor of Michigan. In that Democratic year, Murphy won handily. His term as governor was marked by the Flint sit-down strike and his efforts to bring New Deal reforms to Michigan government.

In 1939, Roosevelt appointed Murphy to serve as attorney general of the United States. He distinguished himself as a crusader against crime and corruption. The attorney general was primarily responsible for establishing a civil liberties unit within the Justice Department. Murphy served as head of the Justice Department until January 1940 when he was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. For nine years, often in the role of a dissenter, Murphy championed the cause of civil liberties.

Following difficulties with his heart, Frank Murphy died July 19, 1949.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

Recent Deposits RSS Feed

Search Deep Blue

Advanced Search

Browse by

My Account


Coming Soon

MLibrary logo