Obituary: Robert Bryon Webster

Robert Bryon Webster, former State Bar of Michigan president and Oakland County Circuit Court judge, died May 16 at the age of 81.

Webster served as SBM president from 1989-90.

He was named by then-Gov. William G. Milliken to the Oakland County Circuit Court bench IN 1973, serving as alternate presiding judge and chief judge each for two years.

He was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court as chairman of the Committee to Revise and Consolidate Michigan Court Rules and served on the MSC Task Force on gender issues in the court.

Webster also co-chaired the Judicial Qualifications Committee, a congressional committee that reviews the qualifications of candidates for federal judgeships; and served in various capacities with the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan.

Two years after graduating from Baldwin High School in Birmingham in 1949, Webster  enlisted in the 127th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, an Air Defense unit of the Michigan Air National Guard during the Korean War.

He was stationed in Portland, Maine for two years and then attended service school at Lowry AFB, Denver in 1952, serving as squadron sgt major in 1953. In 1961, he was commissioned and served to the rank of major, at Selfridge Air Force Base.

Webster swam for University of Michigan and earned his undergraduate degree in 1955.

Webster’s father steered him away from engineering and toward law after saying, “You seem to have a gift for gab, maybe you should be a lawyer.”

After earning his law degree from University of Michigan in 1957, Webster began his legal career as a clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Freeman in 1957.

Upon passing the bar in 1958, Webster went into private practice, beginning at Slyfield, Harman, Reitz and Tait as an associate, then Hill, Lewis, Adams, Goodrich and Tait until he was named to the Oakland circuit court bench.

He returned to private practice in 1982 specializing in commercial litigation, family law, professional liability, alternative dispute mediation and arbitration until his retirement in 2011. He was a partner with Hill Lewis, Clark Hill PLC, and Giarmarco, Mullins, & Horton PC.

Local politics were also a draw for Webster and he served as a precinct delegate as well as a delegate to the Republican Convention in 1972. He also served on numerous non-legal boards such as the Horizon Health Systems and other organizations.

Webster is a past director of the American Judicature Society and National Commissioner on Uniform State Laws, and a co-author of Martin, Dean & Webster “Michigan Court Rules Practice.”

He is survived by his children: Anne E. Webster Jacobs and husband, Chris Jacobs; Allison D. Webster Giddings and husband, Gavin Giddings; Peter H. Webster and wife Penny; James B. Webster and their mother, Marilyn Hey Webster.

Other survivors include seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at the Birmingham Community House in Birmingham on Friday, May 31, at 3 p.m.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland and Macomb Counties or the Crystal Lake and Watershed Association.