Roy C. (Joe) Hayes was one of those U.S. Attorneys who took the job seriously, but seemed to enjoy what he did while keeping a pretty good sense of humor about him.
I got to know Joe when I was a reporter at the Detroit News covering the federal courthouse. He loved to schmooze and he seemed to be the kind of guy who got what he wanted. He died Thursday of pneumonia in Charlevoix at age 73, according to the Detroit Free Press.
In 1985, he became the U.S. Attorney in Detroit at age 44. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He came with some experience in that area. He had been with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office where he battled corruption, organized crime, violent crime and fraud.
As U.S. Attorney, his office prosecuted some high profile cases including the Chambers Brothers crack-cocaine gang, which dominated the city's east side. Hayes himself was the co-prosecutor on the case, which I ended up covering for the News. His office also oversaw the massive investigation into corrupt judges in Detroit's 36th District Court and Recorder's Court.
Joe loved a good laugh and he used always kid me about the "Grey Rabbit," a hippie bus I once took in college during winter break from Portland, Ore., to Indianapolis (I had to take a Greyhound on the final leg of the journey to Detroit.) I told him the amusing story about the Grey Rabbit, which included a passenger in front of me "borrowing" my tooth brush. I never used it again after it left my possession.
Joe was big into his Irish heritage, an Irishman through and through. So I felt a little bad when I broke the story in the Detroit News in 1989 that he was stepping down as U.S. Attorney. I found out from someone else.
Joe had planned to announce his departure a day before St. Patrick's Day so the story would land on the front page in the St. Patty's Day issue (this was before the Internet). Instead, it showed up a day before. He went on to open a private practice in Charlevoix and retired in 2000.
Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press wrote that Joe "had many passions. His Irish heritage. His family. His work. And, his beloved native Detroit.
“I've never met a person who was so proud to be from anywhere as Joe was to be from Detroit. It was the most magnificent city in the world to him, the city where all things were possible,” said John McNamara, Mr. Hayes’ son-in-law. “He wanted the rest of the world to know what a great city Detroit was, and did everything he could to restore it to its glory days.”
Then there was his love for all things Irish, a passion his children remember fondly as they recall poking around in Irish graveyards “in search of Dad’s people,” and waking up to Irish music blaring in the house most Saturday mornings.
The Freep reports that his daughter Amy McNamara, a lawyer, remembers her dad being a “spectacular storyteller, with only a wee bit of embellishment.”
He is survived by his wife, daughter and son, Roy (Joe) Hayes III, an attorney. A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Mary’s Church in Charlevoix, the Freep reports.