Ross Wilkins

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Ross Wilkins (February 19, 1799 – May 17, 1872) was an American politician and lawyer from Pennsylvania, who later served as a territorial and U.S. district court judge in the state of Michigan.

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Wilkins was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Major General John Wilkins, Jr., who served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and became the 7th Quartermaster General of the United States Army. His brother was William Wilkins, a notable lawyer, jurist and politician in Pennsylvania. Wilkins graduated from Dickinson College in 1816, then read law to enter the bar in 1820, and was a prosecuting attorney in Pittsburgh from 1821 to 1823. He then entered private practice in Pittsburgh from 1823 to 1832. He was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1829 to 1830.

Federal judicial service[edit]

Wilkins was appointed a judge of the Michigan Territory by President Andrew Jackson on April 26, 1832. He opened court on June 17, 1832.

John M. Snowden, who stood high in favor with President Jackson, recommended Wilkins for appointment to the office of district court judge. Shortly afterwards a friend of another applicant for the same office appeared before the President and denounced the man recommended by Mr. Snowden, as being utterly unfit for the place. Old Hickory, with eyes flashing fire, roared out: "How dare you say that? Do you think John M. Snowden would recommend a man unfit for the position? No, never by the eternal!"

On July 2, 1836, President Jackson nominated Wilkins to become United States District Judge of the newly created District of Michigan. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 2, 1836 and received his commission on January 26, 1837. He was briefly also a recorder for the City of Detroit, Michigan in 1837.

Wilkins was also a member of the convention that drafted the Michigan Constitution of 1835, and also of the two conventions held in 1836 to accept terms imposed on Michigan statehood by Congress (see the Toledo War). He also served on the Board of Regents for the University of Michigan, from its creation in 1837 until 1842.

Wilkins served in the District of Michigan until the district was dissolved and subdivided into two districts on February 24, 1863. Wilkins was reassigned by operation of law as District Judge of the Eastern District of Michigan, where he served until he resigned in December 1869. His service with the court was terminated on February 18, 1870 due to his retirement. He never missed a term in his 32 years of service.

He died in Detroit, Michigan, in 1872.


Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Michigan
Succeeded by
seat abolished
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
Succeeded by
John W. Longyear