William M. Saxton
February 14, 1927 – April 15, 2019
William M. Saxton, a trial attorney whose career made a profound and lasting impact on the areas of employment, labor, and civil rights law, passed away at his home in Chandler, Arizona, on Monday, April 15, 2019 at the age of 92, after a lengthy illness.
William authored an extraordinary life from the most humble and ordinary of beginnings. Born the first child of Clyde and M. Lea Saxton in Joplin, Missouri on Valentine’s Day of 1927, he was joined in the family by his beloved sister, Margaret, nearly four years later. Over the course of his childhood, the family moved frequently across the Midwest, ultimately settling in Lansing, Michigan, where William completed high school before joining the U.S. Merchant Marine toward the close of the Second World War. Upon completing his service, William enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he would earn his bachelor’s (1949) and juris doctorate (1952) degrees. He enjoys the singular distinction of having passed the Michigan state bar exam before completing his law school course of study.
From law school, William went to work for his first and sole employer—Butzel, Long in Detroit, Michigan—where he specialized in labor and employment law. By the time he stepped down from his final position as Counselor to the firm in 2013, William had served as an associate, partner, managing partner, director, Chairman and CEO of a successful and renowned practice. In his latter roles, William presided over and contributed substantially to the most sustained period of growth and prominence in the firm’s history. No less important, William’s work as a trial and appellate lawyer during this period resulted in transformative change in the practice of employment and civil rights law, with national implications for public and private sectors. Chief among those accomplishments was William’s advocacy and oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the successful petitioners in the landmark cross-district busing case Milliken v. Bradley, decided in 1974.
Over his years as a distinguished litigator, counselor, and mentor to young attorneys, William has compiled a lengthy list of honors, fellowships, and recognitions from professional organizations, bar associations, state and federal circuit courts. He has also served as a board director, arbitrator, mediator, guest lecturer at numerous law schools, and author of several law review essays. However, William’s most meaningful life event has been and remains his 45 year marriage to his soulmate, Helen, with whom he has indulged in their shared passion for travel, family gatherings, entertaining friends, crossword puzzle solving, and innumerable rounds of golf. After splitting time between homes in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan and Sun Lakes, Arizona, they finally relocated permanently to Arizona in 2013.
William is survived by his wife, Helen Saxton; his daughter Patricia (John) Painter; his son William D. (Lisa Goffman) Saxton; his stepchildren David (Judy) Livingston, Dawn (Jon) Abrahamson, Timothy (Diane) Livingston, and John (Nellie) Livingston; his granddaughter Kimberly Painter; and grandson Jeffrey (Jessi) Painter; the children of his stepchildren, Robert (Kelly) Livingston, Jessica (Chris) Gurney, Bill (Erin) Livingston, Katie (Aaron) Coy, Jacob Livingston and Thomas Livingston, along with three great grandchildren, Hunter Livingston, Lauren Gurney and Owen Coy; and his sister Margaret Fowler. He is preceded in death by his daughter Sherry Saxton; son Michael Saxton; stepdaughter Diane Livingston; and brother-in-law Eugene Fowler.
- Memorial Service Friday, April 26, 2019
- Reception Friday, April 26, 2019
William M. Saxton
April 20, 2019
I was fortunate to have Bill and Helen as neighbors in Arizona.Bill will be missed by his family and many friends.I have told one of his many stories and it remains my favorite.Bill purchased a Corvette when he arrived in Az with a number of miles on it and the price reflected the mileage.Bill happily drove the car home.The dealer called him the following week and said he had to pay additional dollars as the odometer was set to kilometers instead of miles.Bill politely told him no way.The dealer told him he would see him in court and he had better get a lawyer.Bill told him he was a lawyer and he would be happy to see him in court .End of story.A good man.May he Rest In Peace.
April 18, 2019
Dear Helen Pat and Peggy: For over 60 years Bill has been a dear friend,, outstanding lawyer, reasonably good golfer, especially when he conceded himself putts. He was a story teller par excellence. His stories of true events still bring smiles to our faces.
You have our deepest sympathy, your loss is one that hits us as well
Bob and Jackie Benham
April 18, 2019
Dear Helen: I am deeply saddened to learn of Bill's death. You know of the close relationship Bill and I had over the last 56 years. I met Bill as a new lawyer when I joined the Detroit firm of Butzel, Eaman, Long Gust & Kennedy in 1963 and our friendship grew over the years. Bill was not only my mentor in the law but in my life as well. His passing leaves a void in my life that cannot be filled. I will contine to talk to him whenever as issue arises, and hope to come up with the answer he would have provided. Bill was the finest lawyer I met in my 45 years of practice, but more importantly, a fine man as well. He could try a lawsuit, back down Jimmy Hoffa in a labor negotiation, and win the cross city bussing case of which he was most proud.
RIP Bill; you deserve it.
IN THE CARE OF