Haag, Trona E.
Marvin B. Rosenberry
Portraits of Justice, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1848-1998
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Original Date
  • Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake
  • Plum Lake Library, Sayner
  • UW Madison/Wis Hist Soc

.Marvin B. Rosenberry (1868-1958) Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, 1916-1950 Chief Justice, 1929-1950

“Marvin B. Rosenberry is not only one of the most articulate spokesmen for democracy Wisconsin has ever seen, he is also one of the finest examples.” –Wisconsin State Journal, 1952.

Marvin Bristol Rosenberry was born February 12, 1868, in Ohio and grew up on a farm in Michigan. Upon graduating from the University of Michigan Law School in 1893, he settled in Wausau, Wisconsin, and opened his own law office. He was a skilled lawyer and a vigorous advocate, even to the extent of defending himself physically on occasion.

Governor Emmanuel L. Hilipp appointed Rosenberry, 48, to the state Supreme Court on February 12, 1916, to replace Justice John Barnes who was resigning form the Supreme Court.

In 1919, Rosenberry ran for election to a 10-year term, which he won. He won re-election in 1929 and 1939. Rosenberry became the chief justice in 1929 and served in that capacity for 21 years, longer than any other chief justice. In 1950, at age 82, he retired from the Supreme Court.

During his 34 years on the bench, he participated in approximately 11,000 cases. He opinions span 91 volumes of the Wisconsin Reports. He believed that “justice delayed is justice denied” and seldom granted requdests for postponement.

An avid outdoorsman, Rosenberry enjoyed hunting, fishing and hiking. He was responsible for establishing miles of hiking trails [Star Lake Trampers Trails] in northern Wisconsin. He contributed much of his time and talents to the Boy Scouts of America, earning the highest awards given to adult scout leaders.

Rosenberry and his wife Kate Landfair had three children: Florence, Katherine and Samuel. As an attorney, Rosenberry tried cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. One time, he brought his young son to observe. On the train ride home, Rosenberry asked Samuel what he thought of the oral argument. Samuel replied, “They holler a lot and pound the table.”

Upon Kate’s death, he married Lois Matthews, dean of women and professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. Following retirement from the bench, Rosenberry practiced law until a few weeks before his death on Februry 15, 1958, at age 90.