What great 20th century American historical figure was a “practical, decently profane, and a most impressive leader?”

You will find the answer to this question, and much more, in this recent and utterly compelling piece from the Jackson List:

In late May 1945, Justice Robert H. Jackson and his fellow justices were nearing the conclusion of their Supreme Court term. They had finished hearing oral arguments in new cases and were writing, editing and handing down opinions. On Monday, May 21st, for example, Jackson announced three opinions for the Court—“the last of [his] crop,” as he described it, of Court opinions for the term.

Justice Jackson at that time also was four weeks into his assignment, from President Truman, to serve as United States chief of counsel in the international trial of now-surrendered Nazis whom the Allies regarded as war criminals. He continued to do Supreme Court work as he needed to, but since late April his “Nazi prosecutor” job was his priority and filled most of his time.

On Thursday, May 22nd, Jackson left Washington to make a preliminary survey of the situation in Europe. He took off from Washington that afternoon and, after airplane refueling stops in Newfoundland and the Azores, he arrived in Paris just after 1:00 a.m. local time on May 24th.

General Edward C. Betts, United States Army Judge Advocate of the European theatre, met Justice Jackson at the Paris airfield. He decided, after conferring quickly in the officers’ lounge there with Gen. Betts and other senior U.S. officials, to stay for a day or two in Paris, working on the Paris-based needs of the case before travelling to consultations in London. The Army then drove Jackson to the Ritz, where he stayed in “a suite big enough and grand enough for a royal family” and got five or six hours of sleep.

Jackson’s May 24th day was filled with high level consultations. He first met with Gen. Betts at his office. His secretary, a British “Wren” (a Women’s Royal Naval Service officer), became Jackson’s, helping him make appointments. A senior aide to General Lucius Clay, the Director of the Military Government of Germany, came from its Versailles headquarters to meet Jackson. They went the airport and met Jackson’s deputy, General William J. Donovan of the Office of Strategic Services. (At the airport, Jackson also ran into and spoke briefly with his Washington friends and colleagues Harry Hopkins, Averell Harriman and Robert Lovett.) Jackson then had a lunch meeting with Donovan and OSS staff back at the Ritz. During the afternoon, Jackson had more meetings with Betts and others at his office. At 4:00 p.m., Jackson met with Jefferson Caffrey, the U.S. Ambassador to France. At 5:00, Jackson drove out to Versailles and had a long meeting with Gen. Clay. At 7:30, Jackson returned to Paris and was introduced to U.S. Army Major Lawrence A. Coleman, a young lawyer who had been assigned to serve as Jackson’s military aide; they reviewed local messages and Washington cables for Jackson.

Following dinner at the Ritz, Jackson took a long walk with Col. John Harlan Amen of his staff. Paris was moonlit but otherwise poorly lighted. They saw few people out. Burned tanks and vehicles lined roadsides. Barbed wire and former Nazi pillboxes were everywhere. Luxury shops appeared well-stocked. Stores for ordinary customers seemed to have no stock.

On Friday morning, May 25th—seventy years ago yesterday—Jackson returned to Gen. Betts’s office. He reported that the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was in Paris. Jackson telephoned and Eisenhower invited him and Betts to meet with Eisenhower at his room at the Hotel Raphael.

Although Jackson and Eisenhower had each lived at various times in Washington, D.C.’s Wardman Park apartment building, they had never met. At the Raphael, Eisenhower greeted Jackson cordially. Eisenhower explained that he was there to get a day’s rest.

They discussed Jackson’s presidential assignment to prosecute war criminals. Eisenhower said he did not support shooting anybody without a trial and hoped that trials would not take long. Jackson explained his preliminary plan to prosecute the Gestapo as a criminal organization, and then to prosecute Gestapo members for the crime of belonging to that organization. Eisenhower stated his support—he said he had seen so much that in his eyes “any bastard who belonged to that outfit is guilty”.

Jackson asked Eisenhower where the principal Nazi prisoners—the prospective defendants—were being held. Betts injected that he was asking the War Department for authority to keep them in jail rather than in prisoner of war camps. Eisenhower said not to bother Washington—simply put the suspected criminals in jail on his responsibility.

Eisenhower stated his full authorization for any war criminal trials, pledging the Army’s full cooperation. He told Betts to get more men if they were needed.

Jackson, in a later diary note, wrote his initial impression of Eisenhower: “He is practical, decently profane, and a most impressive leader.”

As always, thanks to Professor John Q. Barrett. Barrett brings legal history alive!


Jackson in the Holiday Season

Judges and Justices are ordinary people who sometimes do extraordinary things. One of the greatest Justices of all time, Robert Jackson, proved that point during the holiday season of 1945, as chronicled in this post from the Jackson List:

For the Jackson List:

Sixty-nine years ago, the Nuremberg trial was in its fifth week.  Twenty-four actual trial days had been completed and United States prosecutors were still presenting their case—the leading and largest, and only the first of four, national presentations of evidence—to the International Military Tribunal.

On December 20, 1945, the IMT judges recessed the trial for a two-week holiday break.  They decided to recess over the strong objections of U.S. chief prosecutor Justice Robert H. Jackson.  He then was in the seventh month of his presidential assignment to prosecute the principal Nazi war criminals, away from the Supreme Court as its 1945 Term was progressing, and trying to complete the trial and return to the U.S. as quickly as possible.

Late that Thursday afternoon, in his office in the Palace of Justice on the outskirts of devastated Nürnberg, Jackson wrote a long letter to his wife, his daughter and his daughter-in-law.  It chronicles his holiday circumstances and, as Jackson’s writing typically did, it shows a lot of himself:

Dec 20 1945

Dear Rene, Mary and Nancy:-

 Well here we are at Christmas—I have plenty of money and can’t buy a thing.  At least my shopping problem is simple. 

The Tribunal against our protest voted a recess from Dec 20 to Jany 2.  We wanted to work right through except Christmas day.  But nothing doing with the French + British so near home.  The time is too long to remain here in waiting and not time enough to get home [to the U.S.] + back safely.  I can’t take a chance on the long delays now caused by weather over the Atlantic. 

We have planned a short trip to the sun sunshine south of the Alps—Riviera—Rome—(1 day) Athens (1 day) Cairo—If possible we will go to the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem for midnight Christmas eve service.  It is only 40 minutes by air from Cairo and Cairo two days from here.  Then on the way back we will cut our trip to fit our time.  Seems a rare chance to see something of the Near East.  Our party will be only eight—Gordon Dean—Col. [Robert] Gill—Bill [Jackson’s executive assistant and son, William E. Jackson]—Capt. [John] Vonetes—Roger Barrett a fine boy from Chicago [*no, no relation][—]R.H.J.—and Jean MacFetridge and Elsie [Jackson’s secretary Elsie L. Douglas].  …  We have our own plane and the Army is taking care of us at each point.

…  Last night we gave a combination dinner for staff members….  The cooks and boys got a tree—Elsie made all sorts of things to put on it by way of decorations—nuts and cookies tied up in paper napkins, cut outs of horseshoes, the moon, stars etc etc and finally one of the boys from some German got some lights and Elsies mother sent some icecycles (however you spell it).  It made a really beautiful tree.  Then a turkey dinner.  It was exactly six months before that our plane landed in London—only ones [from that original group] here now were Bill, [Larry] Coleman, [Gordon] Dean, Jean MacFetridge, Alma Soller, Elsie & I.  We drank a wine Rhine wine—(liberated) to ourselves + then made the others drink one to us.  Then they all went to the [house’s] music room and sang Christmas carols—then we had a bus take us all out to the Press Camp where the correspondents were having a rather shabby dance—but for policy reasons I had to show up.  Back about midnight—at least things are early around here.  Everybody thought we had a darned good time considering.  Santa Claus came to our house too—Elsie gave Bill + me each a pair of pajamas—made us ashamed we had not thought so far ahead [back in London that summer, to buy gifts before coming to Nuremberg].  …

The case is going well.  There is complaint that it is dreary.  So it is for people who don’t like hard facts.  I have tried to avoid making it spectacular.  But don’t worry.

…  Love and good wishes—more later


(Jackson’s late December 1945 holiday trip with stops around the Mediterranean Sea did come off as planned.  Eight years later, in what turned out to be the last year of his life, he described that trip quite lyrically in an autobiographical fragment:

I have journeyed to Jerusalem and on a Christmas even to Bethlehem, where walking outside the little village the shepherds were still tending their flocks and the stars seemed almost within reach.  And I have lingered for days at Luxor, resting in the shade cast by temples that the faith of men built 4,000 years ago and trudging through a city of tombs that bespoke their belief that death was a beginning as well as an end.)

The Robert Jackson of Christmastime 1945—he a leading player on the world stage, commanding the power of military occupation, immersed in and proving the horrors of Nazism and World War II, experiencing the wonders of geography and history—is one piece of him and the holiday experience.

Jackson’s December 1945 also letter shows quite plainly, however, that he was even then, in all of his Nuremberg power and special circumstances, a man of human values and not much pretense—as he had been from his humble beginnings and earlier years.  Consider, for example, a Christmastime in the mid-1920s.  Bob Jackson then was a Jamestown, New York, lawyer in his early 30s.  He and Irene had been married since 1916 and their children Bill and Mary were young.  At holiday time, they hosted at home their friends Royal and Alace Bates.  The men went out and then returned with young Bill Jackson’s first toy train—“a wind up affair.”  And then, as Alace Bates recalled it years later, “those big boys”—Jamestown lawyers Bob Jackson and Royal Bates—“played with it all evening then did the tree and we all made merry.”

In this holiday season, I hope that you and yours get to gather with loved ones, to travel and see marvels, and to experience the happiness of a child—and perhaps to be one yourself—with a new toy.

*          *          *

John Q. Barrett

Professor of Law, St. John’s University, New York, NY


The internment of US citizens of Japanese ancestry

Photo credit: Professor Michael Bess. See here.

Photo credit: Professor Michael Bess. See here.

The holiday season is upon us. Most of us try to think good thoughts during this time. That is true even for those of us who are unbelievers. From the Jackson List, here is something in that vein worth reading and celebrating:

For the Jackson List:

The background history is well known—

· On December 7, 1941, Japanese attackers inflicted grave damage on the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

· The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought and obtained a congressional resolution declaring that the U.S. was at war with Japan.

· In February 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War and U.S. military commanders to prevent possible espionage and sabotage by declaring parts of the U.S. to be military areas, excluding persons therefrom, and taking other steps that commanders deemed appropriate.

· Pursuant to that authority, the U.S. Army soon declared the west coast of the U.S. to be an area under military command.

· The Army then issued a series of security orders directed at persons there who were of Japanese descent (both immigrants and U.S. citizens). These orders included curfews, then exclusions from coastal areas, and then directives to report to internment camps in the interior of the country.

· The U.S. Congress and President Roosevelt then enacted criminal laws penalizing violations of those orders.

· During the war years, over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, obeying these orders, were interned by the U.S. government.

· Some—relatively few—Japanese-Americans refused to obey those government orders. Some were prosecuted and convicted, and some of their appeals reached the Supreme Court of the United States.

· In 1943 and 1944, U.S. and allied forces, fighting island to island and at horrific cost, began to prevail – the war moved ever farther west, away from the U.S. and its people, toward Japan, and toward Allied victory.

· In June 1943, the Supreme Court affirmed unanimously a curfew violator’s conviction, holding that the Constitution empowers Congress and the President to enact and enforce such a restriction in what they regarded as the interest of national security (Hirabayashi v. United States).

· Two other Japanese-American cases – one challenging the constitutionality of a military exclusion order (Korematsu v. United States), the other challenging the legality of the government’s internment of a concededly loyal U.S. citizen of Japanese ancestry (Ex parte Endo) – were argued before the Supreme Court in October 1944.

As decisions in those cases were impending (and probably a Supreme Court leak tipped off the executive branch that decisions, perhaps adverse, were coming very soon), the United States government decided … to stop.

On Sunday, December 17, 1944 — seventy years ago today — General H. Conger Pratt, the U.S. Army’s western commander, located in San Francisco, issued Public Proclamation No. 21. It revoked, effective January 2, 1945, the military orders that had resulted in the internment of Japanese-Americans.

The Supreme Court then acted, the very next day.

In Ex part Endo, which the Justices and the press regarded then as the big case/the frontal assault on the internment system, the Court held unanimously that the government had no legal authority to intern a loyal citizen.

In United States v. Korematsu, a lagging case regarding a citizen’s conviction for violating back in 1942 an order that excluded him, based only on his Japanese-American ethnicity, from the coastal area in which he lived, a divided Court—three, including Justice Jackson, dissented—upheld the constitutionality of the executive branch’s actions in what it claimed to have been national security interests.

United States government treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is and should be a topic of constant study and reflection. Those executive (presidential and military) and congressional actions show how injury, knowledge, power, fear, ignorance and prejudice can combine to produce oppression. The judicial decisions show deference, rationalizations and perhaps institutional abdications.

General Pratt’s announcement of December 17th also shows, however, something that is hopeful. It was possible, and thus it is possible, for officials to wake up, to rethink, to change course, to improve behavior, to turn pages. Even when officials act late, and even when they act in response to forces and developments that largely have forced their moves, such actions are the promise of self-government.

* * *

To Professor John Q. Barrett, Professor of Law, St. John’s University, New York, NY and Elizabeth S. Lenna, Fellow, Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, NY thank you for reminding us that redemption is possible even for governments. And, more broadly, thanks for the Jackson List, it is a pearl of great price.


Thanksgiving at Nuremberg

Some of us, perhaps most of us, have much to give thanks for this November 27, 2014. It is very much worth remembering as we enjoy our good fortune that nearly 70 years ago Justice Robert Jackson celebrated Thanksgiving in an unusual manner while in the midst of the Nazi war crimes trials.

Indeed, I assert that Jackson’s Thanksgiving in 1945 ranks second only to that first one celebrated by the Pilgrims. It commemorated and gave thanks for the triumph of law over the greatest evil that civilization has ever known.

With deep appreciation and great thanks to John Q. Barrett, Professor of Law, St. John’s University, and Elizabeth S. Lenna, Fellow, Robert H. Jackson Center, I invite you to read next about Justice Jackson’s Thanksgiving all those many years ago.

For the Jackson List:

In the autumn of 1945, Thursday, November 22, marked the first day of trial evidence at Nuremberg.

In that city, located in the United States military occupation sector of the defeated, surrendered former Germany, the international trial of accused Nazi war criminals had commenced two days earlier in Courtroom 600 in the Palace of Justice.

On November 20, the trial opened with Allied prosecutors reading the indictment against twenty-two individual defendants and six defendant Nazi organizations.  Prosecutors from the U.S., the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the French Republic took turns reading the lengthy document to the International Military Tribunal and the 20 of 22 individual defendants who were present in court.  The process was serious and, as it filled the full day, soporific—reporters and spectators who had obtained courtroom tickets with difficulty began to leave early.

On the next morning, Wednesday, November 21, each defendant stood in turn and entered a plea of not guilty.

The president of the Tribunal then called on Justice Robert H. Jackson, the United States Chief of Counsel, to deliver his opening statement.

“The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility,” Jackson began.  “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

Photo credit: Ray D'Addario and the Robert H. Jackson Center. (Justice Jackson at podium.)

Photo credit: Ray D’Addario and the Robert H. Jackson Center. (Justice Jackson at podium.)

Justice Jackson’s third sentence summarized the entire Nuremberg undertaking:  “That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.”

Jackson’s speech lasted more than four hours, filling the rest of that trial day.  The packed courtroom, including the defendants, recognized immediately that the speech was a masterpiece of composition, delivery and vision.  (For video excerpts, click here.)

When trial commenced the next morning, Thursday, November 22, the IMT first ruled on pending defense motions.  Defendant Julius Streicher was, the Tribunal announced, sane and fit to appear to present a defense.  Defendant Martin Bormann would be tried in absentia pursuant to the London Charter of August 8, 1945.

The Tribunal then called on the United States to begin presenting evidence on Count One, which charged defendants with engaging in a common plan and conspiracy to wage aggressive war.

Jackson’s Executive Trial Counsel, Colonel Robert G. Storey, explained that most of the evidence to come would be German documents captured by the U.S. and British armies.

Associate Trial Counsel Ralph G. Albrecht then explained the Nazi Party and government structures and offered organizational charts as evidence.

Major Frank B. Wallis, Assistant Trial Counsel, then began to offer evidence on the Nazi rise to power in Germany and pre-1939 planning for aggressive war.

*          *          *

Those trial proceedings did not conclude the courtroom activity in Nuremberg on Thursday, November 22, 1945.

In the United States, it was Thanksgiving Day.  In Nuremberg, the Allies had not taken the day off to observe the American holiday.  But they did, in that first November of peace following years of world war, gave thanks together and quite solemnly.

At Justice Jackson’s invitation, hundreds of military and civilian Allied personnel gathered in Courtroom 600 at 5:15 p.m.

Jackson spoke briefly, explaining the American history and tradition of Thanksgiving to his British, Russian and French colleagues.

Jackson then called on a member of his staff, Captain Edmund A. Walsh (U.S. Army).  In civilian life, he was Father Walsh, a Jesuit priest, the vice president of Georgetown University, the rector of its School of Foreign Service, and long a Jackson friend.  For all present, Father Walsh offered an opening prayer.

Lieutenant Commander Harold Leventhal (U.S. Coast Guard Reserve), a prosecutor on Jackson’s U.S. staff (and twenty years later a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit), then read from the Psalms.

Lieutenant Henry F. Gerecke (U.S. Army Chaplain Corps) gave the closing benediction.  Pastor Gerecke was the newly-appointed chief Protestant chaplain at the Nuremberg prison, assigned to minister to the defendants and other prisoners there.  (For Gerecke’s story, see Tim Townsend’s 2014 book Mission at Nuremberg:  An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis—click here.)

Throughout this service, most of those present, including the senior Soviet prosecutors and the not-particularly-religious Justice Jackson, folded their hands and bowed their heads.

*          *          *

[O]n every Thanksgiving, I wish for all of us—religious and not, American and not—that Nuremberg spirit of gratitude, peace, human alliance and the pursuit of justice.

And thank you for your interest and friendship.





The candid lawyer, Robert H. Jackson

The American lawyer, even one who is a partisan, is frequently the only one in the room who is candid. Keep that idea in mind as you read the following piece from the always fascinating Jackson List.

In 1880, Mr. Velona Walter Haughwout of Fall River, Massachusetts, married Helen J. Preston in her hometown, Jamestown, New York. They settled in Fall River but retained ties, through her family, to Jamestown.

Decades later, Mr. Haughwout read Jamestown newspaper stories—some and maybe all sent by his sister-in-law, who continued to reside there—about the activities, including public speeches, of a Jamestown attorney, Robert Houghwout Jackson. [Later to become Justice Jackson.] Perhaps Haughwout and Jackson had met. They definitely were connected by Jackson’s middle name, which was his mother’s maiden name. Haughwout concluded, it seems correctly, that he and Jackson were related descendants of an early Dutch settler in New Netherlands (North America, and later the United States).

In June 1928, Mr. Haughwout wrote his compliments to Jackson:

Robert H. Jackson, Esq.

My dear cousin:

I read with great profit and inflated sense of pleasure your screed upon Russia.

My inflation was due to the astonishment that our family name was sustained by a man of real consequence. I had supposed Haughwoutian oratory to be an extinct art. I salute you sir and am proud to subscribe myself your kinsman.

V.W. Haughwout

That Fall, Haughwout wrote again to Jackson. Haughwout’s sister-in-law had sent him a story on a recent Jackson speech supporting the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, New York Governor Al Smith. “[W]hile I cannot subscribe to your conclusion that Smith should be elevated to the White House,” Haughwout wrote,

I must say that the speech was by far the most satisfying one I have read during this filthy campaign, barring none. It is so superior that I am passing it on to a prominent Boston friend of mine as a specimen of fearless, lucid reasoning. I hope it does not carry him over into the Smith column, but I am for frankness whatever the result. … It would clarify the air if both candidates [Al Smith and Republican nominee Herbert Hoover] were to imitate your candor.

On October 24, 1928, Jackson dictated and sent a letter back to Haughwout. Jackson expressed some agreement about the Smith-Hoover race and then mentioned the candidacy that he found more promising:

I appreciate very much your kind words about my speech but I really think that it only shines by reason of the dismal campaign background which is the worst in my recollection. We have, however, in Franklin D. Roosevelt, a splendid candidate for Governor of New York whom I hope to see elected.

* * *

Robert Jackson met Franklin Roosevelt in 1911 and then had episodic contacts with him over the next seventeen years. Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York in 1928, and thereafter, and even more so after his reelection in 1930, Jackson was in contact with him and involved in state policymaking and politics.

In 1932, the Democratic Party nominated F.D.R. to be its presidential candidate. Jackson became a prominent campaign lawyer and spokesman.

On October 24, 1932, James A. Farley of New York, the Democratic Party’s national chairman, held a press conference at his headquarters, the Biltmore Hotel in Manhattan. Farley announced that he was forming a state-wide lawyers committee to protect Democratic Party interests before the election and at the polls. The committee’s first task, he said, would be to investigate the reported Republican campaign to intimidate workers from voting Democratic. Farley announced that Robert H. Jackson of Jamestown had agreed to chair this committee, and that Jackson would appoint chairmen of district committees to assist him.

Jackson worked quickly. Two days later, he announced that he had appointed Democratic lawyers’ committee representatives in judicial districts and counties across New York State, and that they were investigating dozens of complaints of factory owners and managers attempting to intimidate workers into not voting Democratic.

Late the next week, Jackson reported back to Farley, and publicly, on his investigation of alleged employer intimidation of prospective voters. Jackson and his committee members had found that: (1) only a small proportion of employers had used such methods; (2) the similarity of their methods and “advice” to workers indicated a common origin; (3) such efforts “boomerang,” causing more resentment than intimidation; and (4) federal and state legislation should be enacted to punish “every such attempt.”

* * *

On the following Tuesday, November 8th, Governor Roosevelt defeated President Hoover. In New York State’s race for governor, Lieutenant Governor Herbert Lehman defeated the Republican candidate, attorney William J. Donovan.

Through the following year, Robert Jackson continued to practice law in Jamestown, and to assist the Democratic Party and its candidates.

Mr. Haughwout died in February 1934, two weeks after the U.S. Senate had confirmed his kinsman Jackson’s appointment to his first New Deal office, a senior position in the Treasury Department. In a few more years, his speeches, reports and other writings, and his candor, would come to national and then international attention.

* * *

John Q. Barrett

Professor of Law, St. John’s University, New York, NY

Elizabeth S. Lenna Fellow, Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, NY

Justice Jackson and Memorial (Decoration) Day 1909

I have a tendency to take cheap shots at legal academics. I know that is unfair, but it is so easy and so much fun. Obviously, there are a lot of fine legal academics who enrich the lives of the practicing bar and the judiciary.  With the The Jackson List, Justice Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics, John Q. Barrett, a Professor of Law at St. John’s University in New York City, certainly enriches my life.  (I encourage others to sign up to receive the list. “To join the Jackson List, which keeps recipient identities and email addresses confidential, send a ‘subscribe’ note to barrettj@stjohns.edu”) Noting that he encourages sharing, Professor Barrett’s latest contribution is reprinted below.

Reading about Justice Jackson as a student, listening to a man speak that Memorial Day in 1909 about the civil war, peace and justice, when the speaker would later become the Justice’s law partner, brought to mind the bonds lawyers develop with each other as time passes. That the Justice is buried at the same cemetery where he heard his partner-to-be’s speech solidified my perception (hope?) that there is a timeless connection between brothers and sisters at the bar.

With thanks to Professor Barrett, I encourage the reader to take a moment and read the following:

In the United States in 1909, the Memorial Day national holiday, also known as Decoration Day, fell on Monday, May 31st.

The President of the United States, William Howard Taft, delivered an address on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In New York City, over 100,000 people lined Riverside Drive, cheered 15,000 parading veterans of the Civil War and the Spanish War, and attended exercises at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. The Governor of New York, Charles Evans Hughes, delivered an address at Grant’s Tomb. Governor Hughes earlier had reviewed a large parade in Brooklyn. The Bronx also hosted comparable exercises—its largest parade ever.

Memorial Day commemorations involving smaller crowds and less prominent speakers also occurred in cities and towns across the United States.

In the village of Frewsburg in southwestern New York State, Memorial Day exercises began with a parade. A column of people marched from Main Street to a wooden structure, Frewsburg’s Union Free School. With seven classrooms and a library, the Union School offered an elementary course. It also offered, as it had since 1896, a high school course. The high school met in a large room on the top floor. The School’s total enrollment was about 200 students. The high school senior class numbered less than 20.

On that Memorial Day in Frewsburg, Union School pupils and teachers joined the parade. It wound from the village to its cemetery, where a program was held. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and an honor roll of soldiers were read to the crowd.

A leading attorney, Walter Henry Edson of nearby Falconer, New York, delivered the principal speech. Edson spoke about the Civil War, and about peace movements. He emphasized that universal peace cannot occur until there is universal justice.

Robert Houghwout Jackson, then age 17, was one of the student marchers and listeners. A few weeks later, he graduated as Frewsburg High School’s valedictorian. Four years later, he became Edson’s colleague at the bar. They later became law practice partners.

In time, including on the Memorial Day in 1946 that Justice Robert H. Jackson spent in Europe as chief U.S. prosecutor of Nazi war criminals, he made his contributions to universal justice and, he hoped, to peace.

Today, Justice Jackson’s remains rest in that same Frewsburg cemetery, the Maple Grove Cemetery.

It currently is adorned with many United States flags honoring men and women who died while serving in U.S. armed forces, and also honoring U.S. military veterans.

Thank you for your interest, and please share with others who might be interested too.

* * *

As always, thank you for your interest and please share this with others.



Professor John Q. Barrett

Professor of Law, St. John’s University, New York, NY

Elizabeth S. Lenna Fellow, Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, NY



Justice Douglas and his first day on the job

As some of you know, I am privileged to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Historical Society of the United States Courts in the Eighth Circuit. In that capacity, I receive all sorts of very interesting historical information.

Yesterday’s in-box brought me the semi-regular Jackson List and an article entitled A New Justice (1939). authored by John Q. Barret, Professor of Law, St.. John’s University, New York, NY. This offering describes Justice William O. Douglas’s first day on the bench after taking the spot previously held by Justice Brandeis.

On the day Douglas was sworn in and took the bench, eight Justices took their seats first—they were, as viewed left to right from the audience, Associate Justices Felix Frankfurter, Hugo L. Black, Harlan Fiske Stone and James C. McReynolds, Chief Justice Hughes, and Associate Justices Pierce Butler, Owen J. Roberts and Stanley Reed.  At the ripe old age of 40, Douglas took the oath and his seat to Reed’s left.

We have a contemporaneous account of what Douglas thought on his first day in the form of a diary. Here, in his own words, are a portion of Douglas’ recorded recollection that I find particularly fascinating:

April 17, 1939.  I took the regular oath in the conference room a few minutes before noon, the C.J. administering it.  As we filed in from the conference room to the court room, I bringing up the rear as the junior[,] I could not help recalling with a smile Stone’s words of greeting when I was nominated – “Welcome to the chain gang.”  Shortly after I took the oath in open court was escorted to my seat, my son, who was seated with my wife, daughter, sister  brother, caused great merriment on the bench by insisting on leaving the courtroom for the very obvious purpose of going to the toilet.  He had violently objected to attending the ceremonies because they would cause him to miss gym at his school.  My daughter less violently objected because she would miss French at school.  I told Felix that I thought each of them showed excellent judgment and revealed a sense of relevancy and importance of events.

In the presence of McReynolds none of the judges smokes.  Roberts gave me a bit of advice.  He said that at his first conference he light[ed] a cigar.  In a moment McReynolds passed him a note saying “Tobacco smoke is personally objectionable to me.”  Van de Vanter [retired Justice Willis Van Devanter], so I am told, used to move over once in awhile to a far corner of the conference room and take a puff or two on a pipe – McReynolds or no McReynolds.  Apparently tobacco smoke is not the only thing McReynolds dislikes.  He seems to dislike all of his colleagues, judging by his crusty manner.  He thoroughly disliked Brandeis.  Why even this is told which I am certain is true.  During conference whenever Brandeis spoke, McReynolds would get up and leave the room and stand outside the door leaving it barely open so that he could tell when Brandeis had finished.  Then he would return.  He also disliked [former Associate Justice John H.] Clarke whom I never knew.  He was a paramount reason for Clarke’s resignation [in 1922].  What torture he could not apply by complete disregard of Clarke’s presence he made up for by badgering.  McReynolds also dislikes thoroughly the Roosevelt administration.  As I was talking to him about a mutual friend, [Professor] George Bates of Harvard [Business School], he let loose some cracks about the New Deal, terming its program as nothing but “moonshine.”  I said to myself, “What a great state of mind for a judge!!”

Ah, legal realism.




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