Norman Sterry
File:Norman Sterry (1903).png
Photograph of Sterry from the 1903 University of Michigan yearbook
Biographical details
Born(1878-07-08)July 8, 1878
Emporia, Kansas
DiedFebruary 3, 1971(1971-02-03) (aged 92)
Los Angeles
Playing career
Position(s)Halfback, end

Norman Sedgwick Sterry (July 8, 1878 – February 3, 1971) was an American lawyer and football player. He represented movie stars and prominent persons as a lawyer in Los Angeles and successfully represented Major League Baseball in the case that resulted in the United States Supreme Court's exemption of baseball from the antitrust laws. As a law student at the University of Michigan, Sterry played at the halfback and end positions on the Michigan Wolverines football teams from 1900 to 1902.

Early yearsEdit

Sterry was born in Emporia, Kansas in 1878, the son of Clinton Norman Sterry (1843–1903) and Lousie Augusta Slocum. He was educated in the public schools in Kansas.[1] In 1892, his father, who was an attorney, became the general attorney for the Santa Fe Railroad in the region west of Albuquerque.[2] In October 1896, at age 18, Sterry moved with his family to Los Angeles.[2][3] At the time of the 1900 United States Census, Sterry was listed as a student living with his parents at 2607 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. He had two younger sisters, Nora and Ruth, and a younger brother, Philip.[4]

Sterry received his further education at Meaney's Private School for Boys and the University of New Mexico.[3]

University of MichiganEdit

In 1900, Sterry enrolled in the Law Department at the University of Michigan and received his law degree in 1903.[1] While at Michigan, Sterry played at the halfback and end positions on the Michigan Wolverines football teams from 1900 to 1902. He was a member of Fielding H. Yost's 1901 and 1902 "Point-a-Minute" football teams that compiled a 22–0 record and outscored opponents 1,197 to 12.[5][6][7]

Sterry's father died in May 1903,[8] the same month Sterry was admitted to the Michigan bar.[3]

Legal careerEdit

After receiving his law degree, Sterry returned to Los Angeles and was admitted to the California bar in October 1903.[3] By 1910, he had partnered with the founders of what became one of California's most prominent law firms, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. As of 1918, he was one of six lawyers listed as members of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.[1] Sterry remained with the Gibson Dunn firm throughout his career, serving as a senior partner at least into the 1950s.[9]

During the 1910s, Sterry was counsel for the Los Angeles Railway and other large companies operating in Los Angeles. In a draft registration card completed in September 1918, Sterry indicated that he was self-employed as an attorney with an office in Los Angeles at the Merchants National Bank Building, Suite 1111.[10]

In the late 1920s, Sterry represented silent film star Lillian Gish in lawsuits involving slander which received national press coverage due to the salacious allegations.[11][12][13][14][15]

In the mid-1930s, Sterry also gained national attention for a suit in which he alleged silent film star Mary Miles Minter had been systematically cheated out of her earnings by her mother. Sterry alleged that Minter had earned over $1 million, but she did not have lunch money and was left impoverished by the mother. The case was ultimately settled in the middle of the proceedings.[16][17][18][19]

Sterry also represented dime-store heiress Barbara Hutton in a child custody dispute with her former husband Cary Grant in the 1940s.[20]

In 1953, Sterry, then a senior partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, successfully represented the New Yankees in a case before the United States Supreme Court, Toolson v. New York Yankees, 346 U.S. 356, which upheld an exemption from the antitrust laws for Major League Baseball.[21][22][23]

Family and deathEdit

In 1909, Sterry married Josephine Lewis. At the time of the 1910 United States Census, Sterry and his wife lived in Los Angeles with Sterry's mother, Louise, and his three siblings.[24]

Sterry and his wife had a daughter, Louisa, and a son, Lewis Trask Sterry. At the time of the 1920 United States Census, Sterry was living in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.[25] At the time of the 1930 United States Census, Sterry lived on South Rossmore Street in Los Angeles with his wife, two children, and two servants.[26]

He died in February 1971 at age 92 and was survived by his wife, Josephine, and son, Lewis.[9][27] He is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.[28]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 James Clark Fifield (1918). "The American Bar, Volume 1". p. 43.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Oscar Tully Shuck (1901). History of the bench and bar of California. p. 937.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Joseph Clement Bates (1912). History of the bench and bar of California. p. 517.
  4. Census entry for Clinton N. Sterry and family. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Los Angeles Ward 3, Los Angeles, California; Roll: T623_89; Page: 14B; Enumeration District: 33.
  5. "1900 Roster". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  6. "1901 Roster". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  7. "1902 Roster". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  8. "Michigan Alumnus, Volume 10". University of Michigan Alumni Association. April 1904.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "N. S. Sterry; L.A. lawyer". Los Angeles Times: p. D5. February 5, 1971.
  10. Draft Registration Card for Norman Sedgwick Sterry, born July 8, 1878. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Registration Location: Los Angeles County, California; Roll: 1530901; Draft Board: 12.
  11. "LILLIAN GISH PLEA IN 5 MILLION SUIT "STUMPS" COURT". Chicago Tribune. September 27, 1927.
  12. "GISH CASE HAS SLANDER ISSUE". Los Angeles Times. December 2, 1927.
  13. "LILLIAN GISH ATTACKS 'SLANDER' DEPOSITIONS". Atlanta Constitution. December 3, 1927.
  14. "MISS GISH PLEADS-SUIT ONCE TRIED". Los Angeles Times. April 19, 1928.
  15. "GISH CONSPIRACY RULED OUT: Judge Will Consider Only Damage Evidence Against Actress in Duell $5,000,000 Suit". Los Angeles Times. April 20, 1928.
  16. "MINTER CASE THEFTS TOLD: Henry's Story Put in Record Shelby Attorney Unopposed by Defense in Introducing Group of Confessions". Los Angeles Times: p. A1. May 22, 1936.,+1936&author=&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&desc=MINTER+CASE+THEFTS+TOLD&pqatl=google.
  17. "Accuse Mother Of Movie Star". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. May 19, 1936.,4191640&dq=norman-sterry&hl=en.
  18. "MINTER SUIT IS SETTLED; Agreement Is Reported Whereby Actress and Mother Cash". The New York Times. June 1936.
  19. "Hint Agreement In Minter Suit". Spokane Daily Chronicle. June 8, 1936.
  20. "Barbara Hutton Sought in New Suit Over Child". Los Angeles Times: p. A3. May 27, 1944.,+1944&author=&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&desc=Barbara+Hutton+Sought+in+New+Suit+Over+Child&pqatl=google.
  21. "Baseball Before Supreme Court". The Evening Citizen, Ottawa, Canada. October 14, 1953.,2726845&dq=norman-sterry&hl=en.
  22. "Supreme Court Baseball Hearing Continues Today". St. Petersburg Times. October 13, 1953.,6134199&dq=norman-sterry&hl=en.
  23. "More Baseball Testimony Due". The Spencer Daily Reporter. October 14, 1953.,1857071&dq=norman-sterry+baseball&hl=en.
  24. Census entry for Louise Sterry and family. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Los Angeles Assembly District 70, Los Angeles, California; Roll: T624_80; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0221; Image: 765; FHL Number: 1374093.
  25. Census entry for Norman Sterry and family. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Los Angeles Assembly District 63, Los Angeles, California; Roll: T625_107; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 179; Image: 275.
  26. Census entry for Norman S. Sterry and family. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; Roll: 139; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 161; Image: 562.0.
  27. California Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]. Place: Los Angeles; Date: 3 Feb 1971; Social Security: 564546700.
  28. "Norman S. Sterry". Find-a-Grave.
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