Detroit attorney Cliff Woodards remembered for his wit, legal skills, love of community

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The Detroit legal and political community and community at large paid final respects to prominent attorney Cliff Woodards II on Saturday with words of praise and warm remembrances.

Known for his quick, sharp wit and acerbic commentary, Woodards' friends and colleagues praised him as an intellect who could win arguments with just his words alone. 

Woodards' radio shows and Facebook page musings were also popular among Metro Detroiters as well as those in the area's legal and political circles.

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Attorney Wyatt Harris said Woodards was fearless in the courtroom.

"He was absolutely brilliant," said Harris. "He touched many lives and he definitely touched mine."

36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles said Woodards "was my friend ... my brother."

A private funeral service was held Saturday at Charles Step Funeral Home in Redford Township. A visitation was held 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. at the funeral home.

Cliff Woodards II is remembered during a memorial service at the Charles Step Funeral Home in Redford Township on Saturday, February 13, 2021.

Detroit public relations executive Karen Dumas, a close friend of Woodards, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, and Woodards' daughter Melissa Connelly also spoke at the funeral.

Dumas said Woodards was "intelligent, kind and loving" and had a personality as colorful as his suits and signature sunglasses .

Connelly said her father was the "ultimate measure of a man" while Jones described Woodards as having a "sharp mind ready to debate any current issue."

Jones added, "He had a compassionate demeanor that made him a friend of mine as well as a friend of many. Cliff was a man so, so full of life whose years were cut far too short in a senseless accident."

Woodards, 58, was killed in the early morning of Feb. 8 when a police SUV slammed into his vehicle on the Interstate 96 service drive near West Chicago.

Woodards was reportedly leaving a Super Bowl party. The police vehicle was reportedly responding to an emergency request for backup and traveling at a high rate of speed. 

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said a police Ford Explorer was running with its lights and sirens on as it exited the freeway at 59 mph. It slowed to about 47 mph when it reached the intersection before striking Woodards' car.

Emma Velasco, right, pays her respects to friends of Cliff Woodards II during a memorial service at the Charles Step Funeral Home in Redford Township on Saturday, February 13, 2021.

The Rev. Tellis Chapman, who eulogized Woodards, said the popular attorney was not afraid to be himself.

"He said, 'I gotta be me,'" said Chapman, referring to Woodards' colorful attire inside the courtroom and out. "Brother Cliff decided to be himself."

Chapman, pastor of the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, said Woodards "was a man of conviction who operated in his own context ... also on the right course."

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office announced Friday it has received a warrant request from the Detroit Police Department in connection with the police-involved crash.

"It will take several weeks before forensic reports are received," said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. "These are required before a charging decision can be made in this matter."

Haddy Abouzeid, right, and Michael Glynne pay their respects to long-time colleague Cliff Woodards at the Charles Step Funeral Home in Redford Township on Saturday, February 13, 2021.