Judge Fred Thomas Miles served on the bench of the 20th Circuit Court from 1930 to 1947. He was best known for his dedication to the prohibition of alcohol before the repeal of the Volstead Act & 18th Amendment.
He also notably took a dim view on public nudity, as demonstrated in the decision he handed down in the famous (locally) Ring case of 1933. The case involved the raid of a nudist colony led by Fred L Ring numbering about 30 persons. The raid took place on Labor Day, 1933 in the city of Allegan. During the jury trial, Ring played to the media in attempt to garner public support of his cause, a tactic for which he was sharply scolded by Judge Miles as a social degenerate. Losing the case, Ring was ordered to pay $356 in fines and costs and to serve 60 days in jail.
Judge Miles’s legacy is, in part, a scholarship fund bearing his name at Hope College in Holland, Michigan – the “Miles Award in Law,” which was established in his honor by his son, Judge Wendell Alverson Miles (20th Circuit Court, 1970-1974).
“Holland, Retired Circuit Judge Fred T. Miles, known during Prohibition as a terror for bootleggers, died late Friday at a nursing home in nearby Zeeland at the age of 98. The father of U.S. District Judge Wendell Miles of Grand Rapids, Miles started private practice to 1905, a year after earning a correspondence law degree from the Chicago School of Law. After several law enforcement positions, Miles became Circuit Judge for Ottawa and Allegan Counties about the time the 18th Amendment was passed. Rumrunners hauling liquor between Chicago and northern Michigan reportedly steered clear of Miles’ jurisdiction for fear of stiff prison terms if caught. He served on the bench 18 years and then returned to private practice, which he continued until eight years ago. He recently moved to the Haven Park Nursing Home, where he died. Another son, Frederick, is probate judge in Ottawa County. Funeral services were pending.”
- John Fedynsky, Michigan’s County Courthouses (Ann Arbor, MI:” University of Michigan Press, 2010), 7-8.
- “Fred T. Miles, Former Allegan Judge, Dies,” Kalamazoo Gazette (27 Dec 1975).