From day one, James Beatty, ’55, was captivated by the Law School. “It was like stepping into a new world,” he says. “I have never forgotten that feeling.” With a million-dollar gift creating the James W. Beatty Scholarship Fund, Beatty seeks to express his feelings of gratitude for the opportunities and benefits he gained by coming to Michigan Law.
“I am an accidental lawyer,” says Beatty, who was the first in his family to graduate from high school, much less receive a graduate degree. “I had no role models.” A fourth-grade rival made Beatty decide to become a lawyer. “He said he was going to be a lawyer, so—without having the slightest idea of what it meant—I said I wanted to be one, too,” Beatty says. “And I just stuck with it.” It wasn’t until high school that Beatty found his interests in history, government, and political science aligned with his fourth-grade proclamation.
When it came time for Beatty to choose a college, he only applied to one. “My family didn’t have the money to visit colleges,” he says. “My mom decided it would be better if I had a little broader experience, and she was right. I had an amazing experience at Michigan.”
His time at Michigan inspired Beatty to pursue his interest in politics, so in 1952 and again in 1956 Beatty volunteered with Adlai Stevenson’s presidential campaign against Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1960, he worked for the John F. Kennedy campaign in the race against Richard Nixon. “What began in 1940, when my mom took me to see Franklin D. Roosevelt speak, just sort of evolved and got bigger and bigger,” says Beatty.
While serving in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Beatty read James Michener’s Report of the County Chairman, which chronicled the celebrated author’s involvement with grassroots politics. “I decided that I would like to do that, and—as fate would have it—that’s what I did,” says Beatty. From 1964 to 1970, while simultaneously working as partner at the Indianapolis law firm of Bamberger & Feibleman, Beatty served as corporation counsel to the City of Indianapolis and chairman of the Marion County Democratic Party. “To a large extent, my background as a lawyer made that possible because it gave me the freedom to do all three jobs,” says Beatty. In the following years, Beatty returned to practicing law full time but remained active in politics by supporting his close friend Andrew Jacobs Jr., who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years.
After working at Bamberger & Feibleman for 17 years, he and a colleague founded their own firm, Landman & Beatty. “I was able to do it because I had the confidence I could earn a living somewhere else,” says Beatty. “I attribute it to the confidence I grew while at Michigan.”
While he is now retired, Beatty still keeps abreast of politics. He is particularly appreciative of the Law School’s commitment to diversity, and says it’s one reason he gives to the Law School. The second reason is rooted in his gratitude and loyalty to the institution that introduced him to a whole new world so many years ago. “Lawyers are privileged and, therefore, have an added obligation to help support what has been helpful to us,” says Beatty. “Michigan opened doors for me that might not otherwise have been open. I am enormously grateful.”—JP