Submitted by the Family
Sidney Barthwell, Jr., 72, died of natural causes on May 15, 2020 at his winter home in Southwest Florida. A retired magistrate of 36th District Court in Detroit, he was a multi-talented Renaissance man: a poet, published author, lawyer, athlete, artist, and devoted husband.
Sidney was born on September 1, 1947 into a distinguished Detroit family. His father, Sidney Barthwell, owned the legendary chain of 13 Barthwell Drug Stores. His mother, Gladys Whitfield Barthwell, was a librarian, schoolteacher, and twice president of the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
In 1965, Sidney was one of the first African Americans to graduate from Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He was popular and well respected. An outstanding athlete, he played football and basketball. The varsity basketball team demanded that Sidney be a team member when they felt he was excluded unjustly. With admiration for Sidney’s football grit, his beloved coach, Dell Walden, named his first son Sid.
After graduating from high school, being deeply conscious of the inequities facing African Americans, Sidney wrote poetry reflecting his views about the challenges faced by his people. He moved to New York, where he was involved in various endeavors including organizing new conferences as public relations media liaison for an international health organization; engaging in professional nonprofit fund-raising activities; managing the organization of concert tours; and teaching African American history in community schools.
Returning to Detroit, Sidney worked for his father several years and re-entered Wayne State University in 1984 where he majored in political science and psychology, obtaining several honors including the Dean’s List at Wayne State University (1984-1986), the National Dean’s List (1985, 1986), and being nominated for the Maximizing Access to Research Careers Fellowship in 1986, the year of his graduation.
Sidney entered Harvard Law School in 1987, graduating in 1990 with several honors. While at Harvard, he was the Executive Editor of the Harvard Blackletter Journal, the General Editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and a member of the Harvard Black Law Students Association. Upon graduating from Harvard Law School, he treated himself to a round-the-world trip.
Choosing to work in his beloved city Detroit, he practiced with a prominent law firm, and then as a solo practitioner with an emphasis on criminal defense, family law, probate, real estate, and commercial law. In 2004, Sidney was appointed magistrate of 36th District Court in Detroit where he was held in high esteem. Sidney retired in 2014.
In 1992, he began dating the love of his life, Judith Thompson, whom he had known from childhood. They were married in 1994, and continued a wonderful relationship which included many travel adventures throughout the world.
Sidney, a lifelong athlete, ran in 14 marathons, including New York and Boston, 12 half-marathons, and numerous other races. He was also an avid golfer.
In 2011, he published the book: Runner: Traversing the Road of Life with 26 chapters reflecting his philosophies.
Throughout his life, Sidney had come to know numerous distinguished people. There were many lawyers, judges, and childhood friends of note, and people from all walks of life. Among his classmates at Cranbrook School were James Bailey, founder and former CEO of Cambridge Associates and U.S. Senator Mitt Romney. At Harvard Law School he became friends with fellow schoolmate, President Barack Obama.
He is survived by his wife, Judith Thompson-Barthwell, his sister, Dr. Akosua Barthwell Evans, nephew, Walter K. Evans, and numerous other cousins, family members and friends.