John W. Champlin
Most Worshipful Grand Master 1871
John W. Champlin was born on February 17, 1831 in Kingston, New York, and later to Harpersfield, New York. In the summer he worked beside his father and brothers on their farm. In the wintertime he attended the village school; at thirteen he entered the academy at Stamford, and afterwards the academies of Rhienbeck and Harpersfield. After leaving Harpersfield Academy, he took a course of civil engineering at Delaware Literary Institute, and began the practice of that profession in New York. Seeking a wider field, in 1854, at the age of twenty-three, he moved to the City of Grand Rapids. His brother, Stephen G. Champlin, was engaged in the practice of law. Here, he worked in his brother’s office and passed his examination before Judge Martin and admitted to the Bar in 1855.
In 1856 he was chosen to prepare a revision of the charter of the City of Grand Rapids. The results of his work have formed the basis of all charter legislation for that City. He held at different times the office of the City Recorder, City Attorney, and in 1867 was elected Mayor. From this time on he pursued the practice of the law with an intensity withdrew him entirely from other pursuits. His business became so varied and extensive that it demanded his entire time in the trial of causes and in the examination of the many and delicate questions arising in the course of a large general practice.
In 1883 he was nominated by the Democratic Party for the Judge of the Supreme Court, and was elected by a majority that held him in very high esteem. He took his seat as a member of that court in January 1884, and served until December 31, 1891. The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan in 1887 conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. In politics, Judge Champlin was a Democrat. He, however, declined to follow that portion of his party who opposed the war. On the first of October 1856, he married Miss Ellen More. They had three children. He was a member of St. Mark’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids.
After leaving his post on the Court, he resumed the practice of law. In 1892 he was appointed a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan.
Brother Champlin was raised as a Master Mason in Grand River Lodge, No. 34 on April 14, 1858, and was elected Worshipful Master in 1864, serving two years. At the annual meeting of Grand Lodge in 1870, he was elected Deputy Grand Master, and in 1871 was chosen Most Worshipful Grand Master.
He was made a Royal Arch Mason in Grand Rapids Chapter, No. 7, on March 4, 1863, and served as High Priest of that Chapter in 1868. He was a member of DeMolay Commandery, No. 5, K.T. and of DeWitt Clinton Consistory, A. & A.S.R.
He died on July 24, 1901.