Horace Harmon Lurton
|Horace Harmon Lurton|
|Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court|
December 20, 1909 – July 12, 1914
|Nominated by||William Howard Taft|
|Preceded by||Rufus Wheeler Peckham|
|Succeeded by||James Clark McReynolds|
February 26, 1844|
|Died||July 12, 1914
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Horace Harmon Lurton (February 26, 1844 – July 12, 1914) was an American jurist who served for four years as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed at the age of 65, Lurton was the oldest justice appointed to the Court.
Lurton was born in Newport, Kentucky, the son of a physician turned clergyman. He was a Sergeant Major in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, serving in the 5th Tennessee Infantry, 2nd Kentucky Infantry, and 3rd Kentucky Cavalry. He was twice captured by Union forces, the second time sent as a prisoner of war to Johnson's Island Prison Camp in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. He was later paroled by President Lincoln because of pleas for mercy from his mother.
Education and early practice
Before the war, Lurton attended Douglas University, and then earned an LL.B. in 1867 at Cumberland School of Law which was then part of Cumberland University, but is now part of Samford University. At Cumberland he was a member of Beta Theta Pi. Lurton then practiced law in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Career as a judge
In 1875, Lurton left private practice after being chosen as a judge of the Tennessee Chancery Court for the Sixth Chancery Division. After three years, Lurton then returned to his practice until 1886, when he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. From this position, in 1893, Lurton was appointed by President Grover Cleveland to a federal appellate judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. While still on that court, Lurton first taught at, then served as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Law from 1905 until 1909.
Supreme Court service
In 1909, Lurton's friend, President William Howard Taft, named him to a seat on the Supreme Court that had been vacated by the death of Justice Rufus Wheeler Peckham. This was the first of Taft's five Supreme Court appointments – six if one counts the elevation of Edward White to Chief Justice – and surprised some observers because unlike Taft, Lurton was a Democrat. Taft's attorney general George W. Wickersham said that at 66, Lurton was too old to become a Supreme Court justice, but Taft had always admired him. According to the Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (2001 edition), Taft later said that "the chief pleasure of my administration" was the appointment of Lurton.
Lurton sided most frequently on the court with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a progressive Supreme Court justice. The most notable opinion he authored was probably the opinion of the Court in Coyle v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559 (1911), which held that the Federal Government couldn't tell a State where to locate its capital, and reaffirmed the doctrine that all the States must be on "equal footing."
Lurton took his seat on the Court at the beginning of 1910. His tenure on the Court was brief, as he served only four years before dying in Atlantic City, New Jersey of a sudden heart attack, in 1914. According to his obituary in The New York Times (July 13, 1914, p. 1), he had been in poor health since the previous December, suffering from asthma and then pneumonia.
- Lurton was a family friend of noted historian and jurist Samuel Cole Williams.
- Horace Harmon Lurton at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- "Federal Judicial Center: Horace Harmon Lurton". 2009-12-12. Retrieved 2009-12-12.
- Irons, Peter. A People's History of the Supreme Court, p. 260. Penguin Books, 2000. Peter Irons wrote critically of Lurton's lack of impact on American Constitutional Law, even though Lurton only served on the High Court for four years before his death.
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Howell Edmunds Jackson
|Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Loyal Edwin Knappen
Rufus Wheeler Peckham
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
December 20, 1909 – July 12, 1914
James Clark McReynolds