Frank J. Kelley

In Memory

“The Eternal General”
Co-Founder of Kelley Cawthorne
(1925-2021) 

“He is not just a legend in Michigan politics, he is a giant in American public service.”

– Former Michigan Governor James J. Blanchard on the passing of his mentor, Frank J. Kelley

Elected statewide ten times, Frank J. Kelley is the longest continuously serving state attorney general in U.S. history. Inspired by U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to become an activist attorney general, he founded the nation’s first consumer protection, criminal fraud, and environmental divisions in a state attorney general’s office. He achieved immense popularity by siding with the little guy and squaring off against entrenched interests. In private practice, he founded a pioneering bipartisan firm which still proudly bears his name. Despite all those accomplishments, our lasting memories are of his humor and his kindness.

The Frank J. Kelley Capitol Walkway

The Frank J. Kelley Capitol Walkway runs from the Michigan Hall of Justice, past the major state executive branch office buildings, and ends at the State Capitol. It connects the people to all three branches of state government. It is a fitting tribute to the man who did just that in a legendary life of public service.

We produced the following video to memorialize the dedication of the Frank J. Kelley Capitol Walkway.

  • FJK on Friends:
    “Any damn fool can make enemies. It takes a wise man to make and keep friends.”
  • FJK on Retirement:
    “I think everyone should slow down at 90 and just enjoy life.”
  • FJK on Compromise:
    “Politics is something that’s based on compromise. Our idea of government in America is Democracy based on compromise. Too many people today don’t realize that.”
  • FJK on his father:
    “I don’t pretend to be as charismatic as my father, but I did like people like my dad and that helped in my political career, and it helped in life, period.”

  • The Frank J. Kelley Capitol Walkway established by an Act of the Michigan Legislature in 2012. Read more
  • The Frank J. Kelley Institute in Ethics at Michigan State University Law School. Read more
  • The Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award established by the State Bar of Michigan in 1998
  • On his passing:
    • Michigan Senate Concurrent Resolution of 2021. Read more
    • Rob Elhenicky, Michigan’s Big Show. Hear more
    • Former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard, Michigan’s Big Show. Hear more
    • Public Officials React, Detroit Free Press. Read more
    • Syndicated Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick. Read more
    • FJK Biographer Jack Lessenberry, Michigan’s Big Show. Hear more
    • Blue Cross President/CEO Dan Loepp, Michigan’s Big Show. Hear more
    • Bill Ballenger, Ballenger Report, Michigan’s Big Show. Hear more
    • Former Assistant AG Jack Cahill, Michigan’s Big Show. Hear more
    • Detroit News Read more
    • Detroit Free Press Read more
    • Michigan Advance Read more
  • FJK on the Law, Michigan’s Big Show Hear More
  • FJK’s lasting impact on the environment. Read more

Kelley Cawthorne Co-Founder, Dennis Cawthorne:
“Frank was one of the most kind-hearted, honest, ethical persons I have ever known, in both his public service and in his 15 years of practice with me. He was a true legend, recognized as such across the nation and deservedly so.”

Jack Lessenberry, political writer and commentator and Kelley biographer:
“Frank Kelley didn't just serve as Michigan's attorney general longer than anyone in state history, he really invented the office in its modern form.”

Former Michigan Gov. and current U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm:
"Frank Kelley was my first mentor in state government and what a teacher he was, with an Irishman’s gift of humor and a fierce heart for the average working person. When I was governor, Frank would pop into my office every few weeks with humorous advice on how to fight and who to fight. Voters loved him and he loved them back.”

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller:
“Frank Kelley blazed the trail for all state attorneys general to become ‘the people’s lawyer.’ He was the first to capture the full role of the AG in consumer and environmental protection, utility regulation, and civil rights. And oh, yes, I will always remember the Kelley wit.”