Robert Holmes Bell

Robert Holmes Bell '66 is a U.S. District Judge

I was always interested in everything historical, probing questions of grandparents and reading books, usually related to American history. Yet I discounted history as a "vocation" when earning a living was on the ‘front burner’ of life.

History as taught by Dr. Cairns in “English History" and Dr. Kamm in "American Constitutional History" opened my eyes to a future profession as a lawyer. My three years in law school related primarily to immediate Rules of Procedure, Rules of Evidence, and specialty topics like domestic relations. Behind all these rules of law was a rich history of law development that gave texture and meaning to contemporary legal thought.

I became a litigation attorney very early in my career and enjoyed it immensely. Not only did I have stories to tell but I also saw the human conflict and jury deliberations as a continuum of law developed from centuries of study. My avocation after work during the day and time spent with family in the evenings was a good history book, a great source of entertainment, learning and reflection.

I have been an elected State of Michigan Circuit Judge, and now for a few decades, a United States District Judge for the Western District of Michigan. I sit both on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the 9th Circuit of Appeals in California. This privilege, as a Christian, has been more than I could have ever asked for. Certainly it involves hard work in many complex areas. All lawsuits are traced back historically to their roots. All patent cases back to the inventor, etc.

History tends to repeat itself. My favorite books of American biographies have educated me in so many areas. I wouldn't be able to accomplish what I have been able to without the wisdom and perspective that history provides.

Every Monday evening I meet with a group of Believers to study the Torah from a Messianic perspective. We are all adults with decades of church leadership and attendance among us. Yet each week new truths emerge from God’s word, seemingly buried centuries ago. So many of the Torah instructions are very relevant to us today.

My Wheaton History degree was seminal to my development as a Believer in Christ, a lawyer and a leader in the federal judiciary. God has indeed been good to me. To Him be the glory.