2015-10-01 / Local News

Author Mitchell receives lifetime achievement award

Justice Weaver also feted


JOHN MITCHELL is recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Historical Society of Michigan. He received the award Friday at a ceremony on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University. JOHN MITCHELL is recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Historical Society of Michigan. He received the award Friday at a ceremony on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University. Author John Mitchell’s third award from the Historical Society of Michigan was his biggest as he joined another Leelanau County resident in being honored at the organization’s annual convention.

Mitchell on Friday received the final plaque of the day, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Earlier, nowdeceased Leelanau County Probate Judge and Michigan Chief Justice Betty Weaver co-author Dr. David B. Schock received an award in the category of Books: Private Printing for their work “Judicial Deceit: Tyranny & Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court.

Mitchell, in speaking about his lifetime achievement award, concentrated on the doors it will open for him to continue his work and rarely spoke about his personal accomplishments that brought him there.


FORMER MICHIGAN Supreme Court chief justice Betty Weaver received a book writing award posthumously. FORMER MICHIGAN Supreme Court chief justice Betty Weaver received a book writing award posthumously. “The most important thing to me about this award is that it helps me continue my work,” said Mitchell, who published his first book some 28 years ago. “I’m one of the few independents anymore who is still trying to write and publish and sell my own books.”

He frets about the future for wouldbe authors who want to publish their own books.

“No time since Gutenberg 500 years ago has the exchange of information changed more than during our time,” he said. “Long-term history books with lots of footnotes have been challenging ... this whole time, ti be a writer in the 80’s until now has been very interesting.”

Mitchell’s business career started as owner of Leelanau Architectural Antiques in Suttons Bay. He still owns the building, which is occupied by Haystacks.

Mitchell found the experience a good precursor into authoring books, a step he took in 1987 somewhat out of frustration. He teamed up with illustrator and eventual co-publisher Tom Woodruff.

“My son was 5 years old and he was just starting to read well. I called Tom and proposed a book, and six months later we had one.”

Mitchell eventually moved from books aimed at younger audiences to more serious historical books. His previous awards from the state historical society were for his books, “Wood Boats of Leelanau County” and ”Grand Traverse, the Civil War Era.”

The committee making the award was unanimous in its selection of Mitchell. According to a release provided by the historical society, “Mitchell ... teamed with noted illustrator Tom Woodruff and created a series of popular history books for Michigan children. Their success placed Mitchell in high demand to conduct in-school presentations. he then successfully customized educational programs based on Michigan history, including the widely popular Writers in Residence elementary school program, which was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.”

Mitchell thanked the Northport Area Heritage Association for nominating him. And he thanked his wife, Ann Marie, who is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors.

“She has been patient through 35 years of an up and down writing affair,” Mitchell said.

In his future are three books, two on Cuba — which he recently visited — and one on crime in Detroit and Leelanau County.

“Those are the three projects as we all head to the finish line. I don’t know which is going to make it first,” he said.

Weaver, from Glen Arbor, told of the “inner workings of the Supreme Court and the reasons Weaver was sharply critical of her colleagues,” according to the historical society. “(Judicial Deceit) describes how one explosive fellow justice repeatedly browbeat staff, justices violated fundraising practices, and justices behaved as activists and changed law from the bench.

“Weaver’s attempt to warn or stop them resulted in attacks against her.”

Fellow Glen Arbor resident George Weeks, Weaver’s good friend and former press spokesman for Gov. Bill Milliken, was not surprised to learn that her book had won an award.

“She has always been making news, and still is,” said Weeks, who has also authored several books. “She went beyond being a Republican or a Democrat, and on many occasions fought with fellow Republicans and was not exactly a fan of John Engler. The award was certainly well deserved.”

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