Ira Waite Jayne – Park 51

“Hell, I am not one of those starry eyed reformers, but I can get things done.” – Ira Waite Jayne


In 1915, Ira Jayne became Detroit’s first recreation commissioner.  He was an avid sportsman, earning varsity letters in track, baseball and football at University of MI.  He had a brief career as a pitcher in the Ohio Valley Baseball League.

Judge Jayne at the farm circa 1958. Courtesy of Toneron 2.  I promise this image was not retouched.
Judge Jayne at the farm circa 1958. Courtesy of Toneron 2. I promise this image was not retouched.

Jayne got ‘things done’ during a time when funding recreation was wanted by the public, yet unpopular in politics. With creative means, he built up recreation programs in schools, libraries, settlements and other public places  [like the DIA] instead of trying to fund buildings and purchase land.  When the City Council refused to give Jayne money for existing playground development, he roped off streets for boys and girls to play in. Fierce and justified behavior.

This recreation appointment by Mayor Oscar Marx was a good fit; however Jayne aspired to a higher public service.  In 1919, he left his post when appointed as a Wayne Court Circuit judge by Governor Albert Sleeper.


Some accounts of Judge Ira Jayne describe him as stern faced and domineering; however those who knew him best saw this facade as a tactic to keep lawyers from owning the courtroom.  In a nutshell, Judge Jayne was a friend of children, labor, the poor and those seeking divorce.   Prior to Jayne’s bench career he was child advocate as the attorney for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.  In 1910, he organized the Children’s Aid Society and continuing as its main attorney until 1915. Ultimately, Jayne helped to establish the Friend of the Court system.  He approved liberal divorce laws that elevated women from lives of ‘indignity’ all while discouraging divorce from the bench.

oh gosh there's a post in the middle of this photo.
oh gosh there’s a post in the middle of this photo.  it must have been super cold that day.

Ira Jayne became Chief Judge in Detroit Circuit Court in 1929 where he made national news by streamlining a four year backlog on the docket with the use of visiting judges.  In 1951, he ended a 59 day strike by Detroit streetcar and bus drivers.  He upheld a law that ‘made’ the strike illegal, next he held the City of Detroit responsible for the strike noting that the mayor’s representatives ignored an early willingness by labor to meet and work out bargaining issues.

Jayne served as the Chief Judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court system for 27 years.  Reports indicate he was active on his farm in Fenton until his death in 1961.  He married Jean and had three children.

Pretty and cold at Jayne Field.
Pretty and cold at Jayne Field.

Judge Jayne is memorialized with a substantial 47 acre park/field south of the Davison off Conant and Luce Streets.  It features a walking path, several baseball diamonds, fields for soccer / football and a windy 9 hole disc golf course that according to disc golfers could use some love.  Lots of parking and a concessions stand.  Jayne Field sides to the Bernard Lasky Playground / Recreation Center which is still in great shape but now closed.  The grounds offer  basketball courts and ample parking.  Overall, these park areas are well groomed.  We’ll discuss Bernard Lasky shortly.