June 14, 2016

Frank N. Andersen Spirit of Philanthropy Award

B. J. Humphreys

2016 Frank N. Andersen Spirit of Philanthropy Award


DSC_0304-BJ-web_lrgFrank Anderson was passionate about giving to his community and making life better for his fellow citizens. In 1994, the Frank N. Andersen Spirit of Philanthropy award was created to honor Mr. Andersen.


The award is presented to an individual who has a history of outstanding philanthropic leadership and demonstrated generosity of time talent and dollars.


Frank Andersen remains one of our region’s best known philanthropists. This award honors an individual who, like Mr. Andersen, is a philanthropist in the truest sense of the word with a personal commitment to making a difference here in Saginaw County.


The 2016 Frank N. Andersen Spirit of Philanthropy Award was presented to B.J. Humphreys on June 13, 2016. 


B.J. Humphreys was born in 1930 in Detroit, Michigan. His mother was from Kentucky and his father from Mississippi and both parents came to Detroit looking for jobs in the automobile industry. B.J. is a January 1948 graduate of Cass Tech High School in Detroit. Because he was younger than 18 when he graduated he could not follow his parents in to the auto industry. This led to a stock boy job at the J.L. Hudson Company on Woodward Ave. in Detroit and, ultimately, to enrollment at Wayne State University as a business administration major. It was at the J.L. Hudson Company that he met Laura Lamson, who later became his wife.


Laura was the daughter of Maurice and Irene Lamson. Both Maurice and his father, Walter, were attorneys in the Saginaw. This led B. J. to consider law as a career. At that time one only needed two years of college education to enroll in law school and B. J. became a student at the Detroit College of Law as soon as he could.


His education was interrupted by his enlistment in the United States Air Force during the Korean Conflict. It was during this time that he married Laura Lamson and their first child, Sarah, was born. Following the Conflict, B.J. returned to law school and their second child, John, was born within days of B.J.’s graduation from law school in 1957.


In 1957 B.J. moved to Saginaw where he began the practice of law with his father-in-law in the firm of Lamson Humphreys. The office was located in the First Savings and Loan Association Building in downtown Saginaw. First Savings was the largest firm client and because of his service B.J. ultimately became the Chairman of the Board of First Savings and Loan from 1968 to 1978. 


B.J. and Laura’s third child, Susan, was born in 1961. B.J.’s practice continued to grow. In addition to savings and loan and banking law, B.J.’s specialties included estate planning, probate, real estate, and business law. During this time B.J. also taught business law classes at Delta College.


B.J. returned to college in the 1970s to satisfy an urge simply to learn more. In the mid 70s he was surprised to learn that with just a few prerequisites he could receive a bachelor’s degree. He graduated summa cum laude as an American History major in 1976 from Saginaw Valley College.


B.J. has had a longstanding association with SVSU above and beyond being an alumni. B.J. has served as Chairman of the SVSU Foundation and has been active in many other respects. Ultimately, B.J. was honored by the university with the Distinguished Service Medallion in 2000.


B.J. was also active at his former law school. He was appointed Trustee of the Detroit College of Law (DCL) in 1972, and served the school with dedication as Trustee, Vice President, and Secretary until 1989. In 1982, B.J.’s contributions to DCL were recognized and lauded by the conferring of a Doctor of Laws Degree by the College.


B.J. has proudly served his community in many other respects by active involvement in organizations such as Kiwanis Club, Salvation Army, Saginaw General Hospital Foundation, First Congregational Church, Michigan Association of School Boards, United Way, and as a Trustee and President of the Saginaw County Bar Association. B.J. has been a longtime supporter of Hidden Harvest and the East Side Soup Kitchen and helped in the creation of the Hunger Solution Center several years ago. He can still be frequently found on a weekday morning helping prepare and serve lunch at the Soup Kitchen and breakfasts on fifth Saturdays.


In addition to having served as the Chairman of the Saginaw Valley State University, B.J. has also been a philanthropic leader of the Wickson-Link Foundation, Nickless Foundation, the Turner Memorial Trust, and the former Brunkow and Werth Foundations.


Over the course of B.J.’s legal career he has been the President and Member of many law firms under different permutations. Life sometimes coming full circle, B.J. is now practicing law with his son, John, in the firm of Lamson Humphreys which was reconstituted in January of this year. The tradition of law is strong in the family. Daughter Sarah is also an attorney and this year, B.J.’s grandson, Stephen Meyer, was admitted to the South Carolina Bar making it five generations of attorneys in the clan.


Smallwood Holoman, Chairperson of the Board, Saginaw Community Foundation, shared these words about B.J. during the 2016 SCF Annual Celebration while presenting the Frank N. Andersen Spirit of Philanthropy Award:


“I learned that B.J., while never serving on the East Side Soup Kitchen’s board, he has been a dedicated volunteer for the past 15 to 20 years. He started when the East Side Soup Kitchen operated out of the Warren Ave. church location. Pam Cole, then director of the East Side Soup Kitchen, said B.J. was very instrumental in the Hunger Solution Center collaboration. I learned from Jane Janze at Hidden Harvest that the Hidden Harvest board had decided to build, and asked the East Side Soup Kitchen if they wanted to join the effort. Pam took the matter to her board and they rejected the proposal. One 95 degree summer day, Jane made a noon delivery to the soup kitchen and mentioned to Pam what a shame it was that her board didn’t want to join the build project. B.J. happened to be volunteering that day, overheard that conversation, and ended up addressing and convincing the East Side Soup Kitchen board to approve the build project and get on board.


He assisted in opening doors to area foundations and funding and the next thing you know, you have Saginaw’s premier non-profit collaboration project built and operating. Pam told me that she thinks that B.J. has a passion and concern for the poor. Often times while volunteering at the East Side Soup Kitchen he will learn of a someone’s legal plight and take their legal issue pro-bono. B.J. was also the driving force behind Hidden Harvest joining (in the past 5-7 years) and utilizing the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan as a valuable and abundant source of meat and bread products for Hidden Harvest’s service area. I have to say that I have first hand knowledge of the dicey relationship between both organizations executive director’s, and putting these two organizations together was no minor miracle. Needless to say, the benefit of this partnership has been endless.


One or more of the foundations that B.J. manages has also participated in the Saginaw Food Initiative – an annual $50,000 grant was made available to Hidden Harvest to purchase food for the Great Lakes Bay Region. Clearly B.J.’s leadership, vision, care and concern for our community qualifies him as a candidate for the Frank N. Anderson Spirit of Philanthropy Award in every way.”