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FRANK MURPHY MUSEUM

The Big House Informational Video

The Law Office Informational Video

Open for tours: Memorial Weekend through Labor Day Weekend Wednesday-Saturday 8 am-4 pm and Sunday Noon-4 pm

Weekends in September Saturday 8 am-4 pm and Sunday Noon-4 pm

Other times by appointment by calling Lori at 989-712-0909

              

Where can you visit the 146 year-old birthplace of a governor and Supreme Court Justice, or a circa 1880-1926 law office?  Where will you find the largest collection of Philippine cultural artifacts in the United States, while also touring a beautiful 1870’s Victorian Gothic Revival style home?   All of this and so much more can be found at the Frank Murphy Memorial Museum in Harbor Beach, MI.

Frank Murphy is arguably the most famous man in Huron County’s history. In fact, no other person from the state of Michigan has held so many high offices in government at so many different levels.  Born in Sand Beach (now Harbor Beach) in 1890 to John and Mary (Brennan) Murphy, Frank was the third of 4 children. After graduating from Harbor Beach High School, he earned a law degree from the University of Michigan. He then enlisted in World War 1, serving in France.

After the war, Murphy began his long public service career as First Assistant U.S. District Attorney for Eastern Michigan. His vigorous prosecution of defendants brought him a following who encouraged him to run for Recorder’s Court Judge in Detroit, a position which he held for six years.  During his tenure, he presided over the famous Dr. Ossian Sweet trials, which earned Frank much national acclaim. The city of Detroit now has a legal building named in his honor – The Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

From 1930-1933, Frank served as Mayor of Detroit, where his innovative solutions for assisting the poor during the Great Depression caught the attention of President Roosevelt, who then became a mentor to young Frank Murphy.  In 1933, FDR offered Frank the position of Governor General of the Philippines and tasked him with the responsibility of leading that country from U.S. colonial status to independence. While there, Frank and his family purchased or were gifted many items which are now displayed as part of the museum’s Philippine Cultural Collection.

Upon completion of this task, President Roosevelt then asked Murphy to return to the U.S and run for Governor of Michigan. As governor, he presided over the historic General Motors Sit-Down Strike of 1937. After several weeks of deliberation, the strike was ended and the document that was generated from the deliberations became the charter for the United Auto Workers. The table on which this document was signed is on display in the museum.

Frank’s next position was as U.S. Attorney General where he created the first Civil Rights section.  In 1940, President Roosevelt nominated Murphy to the U.S. Supreme Court on which he served until his death in 1949. His time as Justice was highlighted by his written opinions. Justice Murphy wrote the dissenting opinion for the controversial Korematsu v. U.S. case, which focused on the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast during WWII. A Michigan Legal Milestone marker commemorating Justice Murphy’s dissenting opinion in this case is located on the front lawn of the museum.

The museum is a historical site which consists of five buildings, three of which are open for tours, including the Law Office and family home (“The Big House”).  While touring the museum, you will also learn about Frank’s siblings: Harold who became postmaster in Harbor Beach, Marguerite who was well-known in the Philippines where she served as Frank’s official hostess, and George, a successful Naval Pilot and Detroit judge.

When the Murphy heirs decided to sell the family estate in 1994, at a cost of $250,000, Judge James Lincoln approached the State of Michigan for the money. The state agreed to pay for half of the purchase, with the requirement that the community would pay for the other half. When the purchase was completed, the City of Harbor Beach then bought the complex for one dollar with the understanding that it would remain open as a museum and historical site. Since then, the museum has been continuously open for tours from Memorial Day – Labor Day.  The Museum is located at 142 S. Huron Avenue in Harbor Beach. Those wishing to tour the museum can stop by the Visitor’s Center, located next to the museum, and request a tour during regular hours.  Tours may also be scheduled in advance by calling the Harbor Beach City Hall at 989-479-3363.


 
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