Retired Judge Willie Lipscomb Jr. remembered for outgoing personality, mentoring law students

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Judge Wille Lipscomb Jr. on the bench in 36th District Court in 2010.

Judge Wille Lipscomb Jr. on the bench in 36th District Court in 2010.

Retired Judge Willie Lipscomb Jr. never met a stranger.

“He was always making new friends,” said his daughter Christine Thigpen. “It could be people he just met at the store.”

Mr. Lipscomb used that outgoing personality as he served on the bench at 36th District Court for 27 years before retiring in 2012.

Mr. Lipscomb was found dead at his Detroit home Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 on his boat he was winterizing, police said. He was 70.

Autopsy results are pending.

Born March 4, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee, Mr. Lipscomb moved to Michigan in his teens. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in 1970 and a law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1975.

Prior to becoming a District Court judge in 1985, Mr. Lipscomb served as an executive director of the Notre Dame Legal Aid and Defender’s Association from 1974-1975 and as a Wayne County assistant prosecuting attorney from 1975-79. He worked in a private law practice 1979-1983 and then served as a magistrate for 36th District Court for two years.

In a statement Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Kym Worthy said Mr. Lipscomb was the “sole reason” she joined the prosecutor’s office in 1984. She met him when she was a law student at the University of Notre Dame.

“He helped guide my entire career,” Worthy wrote. “He was a mentor to several decades of Notre Dame African-American law students and had a profound impact on many lawyers. He had a passion for the law, he was committed to the community and was generous with his time and wisdom. The legal community will miss him, and I will miss him terribly.”

In 1993, Mr. Lipscomb founded the Handgun Intervention Program, in which he would talk every Saturday with individuals convicted of carrying guns illegally.

“I’ve gotten people I don’t even know calling saying he literally saved their lives,” Thigpen said.

Thigpen said her father enjoyed boating, skiing and traveling. He once took her to Greece, where he was stationed while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

After his retirement in 2012, Thigpen said her father devoted more time to doting on his grandchildren, taking them to lunch and having them over for Saturday night visits. He had also recently finished writing a book, The Crocodile King.

Mr. Lipscomb ran for mayor of Detroit in the August primary election. He finished seventh out of 14 candidates.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Lipscomb is survived by his son-in-law Richard Thigpen; grandsons Richard and Pierce; granddaughter Elle and sisters Mygene Carr and Vernice Johnson.

Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Nov. 15 at Swanson Funeral Home-Northwest Chapel, 14751 West McNichols in Detroit. His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Nov. 16 at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, 18700 James Couzens Fwy. in Detroit.

Courtesy of The Detroit News

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