“Hell, I am not one of those starry eyed reformers, but I can get things done.” – Ira Waite Jayne
APPOINTMENT AFTER APPOINTMENT
In 1915, Ira Jayne became Detroit’s first recreation commissioner appointed by Mayor Oscar Marx. Ira was an avid sportsman, earning varsity letters in track, baseball and football at the University of MI. He also had a brief career as a pitcher in the Ohio Valley Baseball League.
He got ‘things done’ during the 1910’s when funding recreation was wanted by the public, yet unpopular with politicians. With creative means, he built up recreation programs in schools, libraries, settlements and museums instead of trying to fund building construction and purchase land. The Detroit City Council refused to give Jayne money toward existing playground development, so he roped off streets for boys and girls to play in. Fierce yet justified behavior.
Recreation work was a good fit; however Jayne aspired to a higher public service. An attorney by trade, he ran for a Wayne County Circuit court judge post and lost by recount to Harry Dingeman [his park is west side behind Chadsey HS] . A few years later he would be appointed to the Court Circuit bench by Governor Albert Sleeper and Ira Jayne’s recreation career was over.
FRIEND OF THE UNDERDOG
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 his courtroom. In a nutshell, Judge Jayne was a friend of children, labor, the poor and those seeking divorce.
As a Detroit attorney, he represented 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 of liberal divorce laws that elevated women from lives of ‘indignity’ while still discouraging divorce.
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. He served in this position for 27 years. 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.
Ira Waite Jayne was active on his farm in Fenton, MI until his death in 1961. Jayne Road in Fenton is named for his family. He was married and had three children.
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 in 2015 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.