Collection Spotlight: The John D. Voelker Papers

Remember when we found the bullets from the real murder case that inspired the book  Anatomy of a Murder?

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Are you interested in seeing the movie based on Anatomy? You’re in luck! We are pleased to announce that the Archives is partnering with the Beaumier Heritage Center and Campus Cinema for a screening of Anatomy of a Murder! It will be held on February 21 in the main Jamrich auditorium at 6 PM. Doors will open at 5:30. The Beaumier will have an exhibit about the movie and we will be bringing interesting items from Voelker’s papers. The screening is free for students and only $1 for the general public!

John D. Voelker, the author of Anatomy, was an Ishpeming native and graduate of Northern State Normal School (now Northern Michigan University). He was the Prosecuting Attorney for Marquette County from 1935 to 1942 and from 1945 to 1950. From 1956 to 1960, he was a justice on the State of Michigan Supreme Court.

Most famously, Voelker defended Army Lieutenant Coleman Peterson, who was accused of the murder of Mike Chenoweth, owner of the Lumberjack Tavern in Big Bay.  After a six-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Although the names and some of the details were changed, large swaths of Anatomy of a Murder were taken directly from the court transcripts of the original case.

However, Voelker also wrote other books, both fiction and non-fiction. Besides Anatomy of a Murder and other books about court cases, he wrote about Upper Peninsula characters in books like Danny and the Boys and about his fishing obsession in books like Trout Madness 

The John D. Voelker papers at the Archives contain information about the history of the extended Voelker family, correspondence with Voelker’s family and friends, photographs, documents on his legal career, manuscripts of his books, and records from the making of the Anatomy movie.

You can learn more about the Anatomy of a Murder case at our Fiftieth Anniversary website. To learn more about the whole John D. Voelker collection, you can check out the finding aid or visit the Archives!

Written by Annika Peterson

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