James E. Purcell, 81

2011-10-30T00:00:00Z James E. Purcell, 81 Montana Standard
October 30, 2011 12:00 am


James E. Purcell, former Butte Silver-Bow District Judge, was born on Dec. 29, 1929, to James T. and Ada Longpre Purcell, and died peacefully on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, at the age of 81 in Butte.

He grew up in Butte and attended St. Joseph grade school and graduated from Butte High School in 1947. He attended Montana Tech and graduated from the University of Montana in 1952 with a degree in journalism. 

He served in the Navy from 1952 to 1954. He then went on to attend The University of Montana Law School, graduating in 1958. Jim practiced law in Butte for 32 years. 

He began his career with Meyer and Meyer Law Office. He then went into practice with Rex Henningsen and Earl Genzberger and ended his private practice career working with Mark Vucurovich and Ross Richardson. 

In 1990, Jim was appointed District Judge for Butte Silver Bow by Gov. Stan Stephens. He was re-elected twice by the voters of Butte. He retired from the bench in 2000.

Jim was selected by the Montana Supreme Court to serve as member of the Commission on Practice and was a member of many service organizations and groups, including Our Lady of the Rockies, Silver Bow Kiwanis Club past president, Butte Elks Lodge past exalted ruler and trustee, Butte Central Education Foundation 

co-founder and past president, Board of Trustees of School District No. 1 trustee, Montana Trial Lawyers Association, American Trial Lawyers Association, Defense Trial Lawyers Association, American Legion, 

Knights of Columbus and the Georgetown Lake Homeowners Association.

Some of Jim’s most passionate pursuits were working on the Board of Directors of Our Lady of the Rockies and helping develop a plan for the tram to the Lady. He also enjoyed cheering on the University of Montana Griz football team where he attended Griz games for 20 years in the “Butte Box.” He even attended the 1995 and 2001 national championship football games.

Jim married Mary Dawn Sampson on Oct. 11, 1958. They had 53 years together. She survives, as do his daughters, Jamie Purcell of Belgrade and Janell Robischon (Pete) of Townsend; grandchildren, Jim Klemann of Billings, Joe Klemann of St. Paul, Minn., Alexa Robischon of Missoula, Madison Robischon of Townsend; and sister-in-law, Joan Sampson of Butte.

Relatives and friends may call after 5 p.m. on Monday evening at St. Ann’s Catholic Church. Parish vigil will be conducted at 7 p.m. Liturgy of the Resurrection will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at St. Ann’s. Cremation will take place following the mass with private family placement of ashes to take place at a later date.

Contributions may be made to Our Lady of the Rockies, Butte Central Catholic Education or a donor of your choice.

Jim’s family would like to thank the entire staff of the Butte Care and Rehabilitation Center for the outstanding care Jim received.


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  1. ElvaMay
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    ElvaMay - November 01, 2011 8:43 am
    Dear Mary Dawn & family. My prayers are with all of you today & the days to come. I enjoyed our visits, even though sad. I always enjoyed seeing & talking to Jim a very nice man. My love to all of you Elva Smithers.
  2. charmessick
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    charmessick - November 01, 2011 12:55 am
    Janell and family members -

    I worked for Jim many many years ago as legal assistant. He told me up front, I expect 100% from my staff and I may yell alot - can you handle me raising my voice? And then he hired me. Your father portrayed himself in a way that he was a vocal no nonsense kind of guy but underneath all of that was a very kind person. He had a big heart for some cases he took care of at times and I saw that also. He was so very proud of his daughters and when you two girls walked into his office, you could see his heart melt. He loved you both so very much.

    I am very sorry for your loss.

    Charlene (LeProwse) Messick

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