Cover photo for Joseph Junior Jerkins's Obituary
1932 Joseph J. Jerkins 2024

Joseph Junior Jerkins

April 27, 1932 — February 18, 2024

Kalamazoo

Joseph (Joe) Junior Jerkins passed away peacefully on Sunday, February 18, 2024.    He was born April 27, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan to the late Joseph Milton Jerkins and Nelly May (Windibank) Jerkins.  He grew up in Detroit and graduated from Southeastern High School in 1949.  He joined the U.S. Army and served honorably during the Korean War as both an enlisted man (Sgt E-5) and an officer; being awarded numerous medals.  Upon leaving active duty in 1954, he used the GI Bill to attend the University of Michigan.   In 1957, he received a BA in History & Political Science, in 1958 a Master of Arts in Near East Studies, and in 1960, his Law Degree.

While at the University of Michigan, he was a walk-on player for the football team under coach Bennie Oosterbaan in 1954 and 1955.  He was also a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.   During his university years he was also an active member of the Army Reserves in Ann Arbor serving as an officer and was its commanding officer by the time he graduated from law school.

Upon graduation from law school, Joe was appointed by J. Edgar Hoover to be an FBI agent.  Following his brief stint with the FBI he was hired as an assistant prosecutor in Kalamazoo, Michigan under John Peters, and under chief prosecutor, John Schwendener.  In 1965, Joe began his trial attorney career in his own practice focusing on criminal defense.  He built a successful law firm over many years with multiple partners and attorneys; several who would later become judges.  Many of his cases have set legal precedent and he retired after fifty-five years in practice.

During his legal career, Joe was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan, the United States Federal Court for the Western District of Michigan, the United States Tax Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of the United States.  

He was a member of the Kalamazoo Bar Association, American Bar Association, the American Judicative Society, the American Trial Lawyers Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Michigan Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  He was a charter member of the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

Joe was also an active member and founder of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and one of the original founders of the Kalamazoo County Defense Lawyers (now known as the Kalamazoo Trial Lawyers) and served as its first president.  

Joe’s great passions during his life were his family, the practice of law, and his beloved University of Michigan Wolverines.  He was a football season ticket holder for over fifty years.  He also loved skiing in Aspen, CO, spending winters in Siesta Key, FL and traveling throughout Europe with his dear friend, Joan Haffenden.

Joe was an avid reader of history and espionage novels as evidenced by the large library in his home. He enjoyed sharing his many books and ideas with family and friends.

Joe is survived by his three children, Jacqueline M. Ripley of Kalamazoo, Joseph M. Jerkins (Christina) of San Francisco, CA, Dr. Julie M. Jerkins of San Diego, CA; his three grandchildren Irene Lyell (Ross) of Atlanta, GA, Dr. Lauren Ripley (Brad Elliston) of Royal Oak, MI, Joseph W. Jerkins of Cambridge, MA and one great granddaughter, Lydia Jane Elliston as well as several nieces and nephews.  He is predeceased by his parents, brother, Jack E. Pearson, and former wife and mother of his children, Carolyn A. Jerkins.

Funeral services will be at 11:30 am Saturday February 24, 2024 at Langeland Family Funeral Home, 3926 S. 9th Street Kalamazoo, MI 49009.  Friends may gather from 10:00 am until the time of service.   In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Meals on Wheels, the VFW or a charity of your choice.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Joseph Junior Jerkins, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Memorial Gathering

Saturday, February 24, 2024

10:00 - 11:30 am (Eastern time)

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Memorial Service

Saturday, February 24, 2024

11:30am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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