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Own a piece of Voelker history

John Voelker is pictured fishing in his later years. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

John D. Voelker (1903-1991) is best known for his novel “Anatomy of a Murder,” published in 1958. This gripping courtroom drama was made into a movie by the same name in 1959.

Director Otto Preminger (1905-1986), famed for his censorship-defying and edgy style, brought Voelker’s story to life and put Marquette, Ishpeming, Big Bay, and Michigamme on the silver screen. The film also brought stars such as Jimmy Stewart and Duke Ellington to the Upper Peninsula.

Voelker, son of an Ishpeming tavern owner, was a prolific writer. He began writing stories as a child, and honed his naturally keen writing ability at Ishpeming High School and Northern Normal School, now called Northern Michigan University.

After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Voelker attended law school at the University of Michigan. He then worked as an attorney in Marquette, Chicago, and Ishpeming. In 1934 he was elected Marquette County prosecuting attorney, serving in that role from 1935 to 1942 and again from 1945 to 1950. From 1956 to 1960 he sat on the Supreme Court of Michigan.

John Voelker was also an avid outdoorsman who particularly loved fly fishing. The American Museum of Fly Fishing in Vermont names Voelker as “Michigan’s mightiest piscator.” He was known to keep fly rods in his car, taking time to pursue his passion for catching brook trout whenever chance allowed.

Idiosyncratic, opinionated, and not afraid to speak his mind, Voelker was a truly memorable individual. Charles Kuralt (1934-1997), award-winning journalist best known for his “On the Road” segments for CBS News, once described Voelker as “about the nearest thing to a great man” he ever knew.

Voelker’s writing reflects his courtroom experiences, his authentic love for the great outdoors, and his appreciation for the Upper Peninsula’s unique culture. In many ways, he is still considered the literary voice of the Upper Peninsula. Few individuals have shaped how we think of our beautiful region as much as Voelker.

Voelker’s first novel was “Troubleshooter: The Story of a Northwoods Prosecutor,” published in 1943 under the pen name Robert Traver. This book brought Voelker’s distinctive storytelling style to national attention. The Marquette Regional History Center recently acquired the lead and copper printing plates for this groundbreaking novel.

We are offering two framed Troubleshooter printing plates with accompanying paper prints at our Auction at the Museum fundraiser, 7 p.m. Wednesday Nov.20 at the History Center.

Please help us fulfill our mission to preserve and document our region’s distinctive culture by attending our auction. Tickets are $20 in advance, and can be purchased online at marquettehistory.org, in person at 145 W. Spring St. in Marquette, or by calling 906-226-3571. This event will offer an eclectic range of antiques and collectibles.

It will also feature unique experiences such as a tour of the Marquette County Courthouse where Voelker practiced law, a fall mushroom hunt, four family-style desserts in a year from Zephyr, a private tour of the Marquette Savings Bank Building, an archaeology hike of Teal Lake, and more. This holiday season, give truly unique gifts to the local history lover in your life.